During late spring and early summer, turtles all over Minnesota are traveling to their egg laying grounds, oftentimes having to hike across roads and highways.
"It is fairly common to see turtles that have been hit by vehicles this time of year," notes Kristy Zajac, private lands specialist for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "A turtle's hard shell is no competition for a car or truck. Considering all the other natural perils turtles face in their fight for survival, we need to be careful in our wanderings as well."
June is the primary egg-laying month for most of Minnesota's native turtle population.
Most species lay one clutch of eggs per year, but a couple species lay two. Somewhere between two and three months down the road small turtles will scratch away at the egg with their claws and tap at the shell with a small point on the top of their nose, called a caruncle, to break through the egg. They then have to dig their way through the packed soil to the surface where enough yolk remains in their system to sustain them for a few days or weeks.
Most young do not make it to this stage of life, however. "Skunks, raccoons and opossums are excellent predators of turtles," Zajac notes.
"Turtle nests are often discovered soon after laying, until the scent is washed away by rain. Predators will dig up the nests and eat eggs at a ferocious pace. Raccoons have even been known to pull the female from her shell while she is laying her eggs."
Most turtles do not survive to adulthood. "But the one thing turtles do have on their side is a long life," Zajac said. "Hopefully over several decades a females will lay enough eggs that a few may make it to adulthood."
"We can all help by giving turtles a break," Zajac stated. "Remember, turtles don't have crossing guards to protect them on their journeys."