After a washed out turtle nest was reported, the eggs were salvaged, examined, and reburied safely by OFNC member Dave Seburn and his “turtle team” – Hannah, Hannah, and Mackenzie.

by Sandy Garland

A rescue mission ended successfully today (July 27), but a happy ending depends on 28 baby turtles, now safely buried at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden.

Turtle eggs were washed out of the ground by torrential rain this week.

The story started with an email message from a woman who enjoys walking at the FWG and Arboretum. She had found Snapping Turtle eggs, evidently washed out of a nest (or several nests) by the downpour the other day. I replied that I would consult my “turtle expert” and sent the message on to OFNC member, David Seburn, who studies turtles locally. See Hunting for the elusive Blanding’s TurtleBuild it and they will hatchDead on the road.

Within the hour, Dave replied that he had spoken to the good samaritan and that he would be at the FWG with the turtle team in the morning. “There’s a turtle team?” I emailed back. I want to be there!!

So, this morning, I was waiting in the parking lot when Dave arrived with Hannah, Hannah, and Mackenzie, ready to rescue turtles! We easily located the stashes of eggs and uncovered them. Then the team needed to “candle” the eggs to see which way up to place them – very important to their survival. As Hannah explained, the embryo side goes on top closest to oxygen. The tiny turtle sort of floats inside the egg like a balloon tethered to the yolk sac below.

Using the light on cell phones to look inside turtle eggs.

We took the eggs into the FWG Resource Centre, where the Hannahs used their cell phones to illuminate the inside of the eggs. Several embryos moved while they watched, so we have high hopes that many will survive the disruption.

Members or the FWG’s Friday volunteer group also had a chance to see the eggs, ask the team questions, and compare stories about finding turtles on the road.

Eggs were carefully placed in a new nest.

Once all the eggs were marked – to ensure that right side up stayed up – the team carried them to the Amphibian Pond, chose a good spot on the south side where there was little vegetation, and reburied the eggs. Dave fetched a protective frame from his car and fastened it down over the new nest.

Now all we have to do is wait. It takes 80-90 days for turtle eggs to hatch, but the timing depends on temperature and many other factors. The survival rate of turtle eggs is low: “By some estimates, a snapping turtle must lay up to 1400 eggs to replace herself” (Nature Conservancy of Canada). So we are very grateful to even have the chance to increase that rate for these eggs.


Mackenzie, Hannah, and Hannah with the completed excavation and protective frame installed.