provided by CROW
In the late spring and early summer, many species of freshwater turtles seek suitable areas to lay their eggs including the Florida softshell turtle. The venture to find a pristine place for their young often involves crossing roadways leading to many female turtles being hit by cars. Injuries suffered from these instances can range from some minor scrapes to life-threatening.
When a turtle that has been hit by a car is admitted to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) veterinarians will use radiographs as part of their exam. If a turtle is gravid, or carrying eggs, the calcified shells can be seen on the radiograph. Expectant mothers are given a variety of substrates including sand, mulch and dirt to comfortably lay her eggs while she is healing from her injuries. For gravid turtles whose injuries are too severe and don’t survive, CROW’s staff can carefully harvest and incubate the eggs after she passes so they can have a chance at survival.
A Florida softshell turtle can have 20-35 eggs at a time. Once the eggs are laid or harvested, they are placed in vermiculite, a substrate that is ideal for maintaining a stable temperature and moisture level, and left to incubate.
“Most aquatic species of turtle eggs will incubate for approximately 60 days,” according to Breanna Frankel, a certified wildlife rehabilitator and rehabilitation manager at CROW. “During this time, it is very important that the eggs are not disturbed and the ideal temperature and humidity is kept constant to ensure that any viable eggs develop appropriately and hatch.”
The temperature at which the eggs are incubated can determine the gender of the hatchlings. Warmer temperatures typically produce more females while cooler temperatures produce more males. At CROW, the eggs are incubated at temperatures in the low 80’s. This falls in a middle range to produce a mix of males and females.
“The most exciting part of the incubation process is obviously the hatching,” says Frankel. “Turtles, and most reptiles, do not provide any parental care for their young. Once they hatch, they are able survive on their own and just a few days after hatching, we are able to release the little turtles to begin their lives in the wild.”
There is currently a clutch of Florida softshell turtle eggs incubating at CROW’s Visitor Education Center which are due to hatch any day. Visitors are able to see the incubating eggs and may be lucky enough to see them hatching during their visit!
THIS WEEK AT CROW (8/26-9/1):
There were 102 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 17 eastern gray squirrels, seven Virginia opossums, six northern raccoons, three osprey, a red-eyed vireo, asooty tern and a southern flying squirrel. Recent Releases include an anhinga, a laughing gull, a yellow-crowned night heron, a black racer and a Florida red-bellied cooter. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases!
Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year! Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road. All Florida residents receive 10% off admission with proof of residency throughout the month of September!
About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond. Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to http://www.crowclinic.org. If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.