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Painted Turtle Blog

Baby Turtle Blog Updates

By Doug Collicutt (Click links for more images.)

As winter progresses I hope to update you all with the progress of the ten baby Painted Turtles. I hope you'll check back here regularly. Even after this winter I'll leave the blog and all its updates in place.

July 20, 2013

This is about when the eggs were accidentally dug up and given to my son for safekeeping (we're not sure of the exact date, or the date when the eggs were actually laid). From this date until they hatched the eggs were kept in a pail of sand atop an upright freezer to keep them warm. Water was added to the sand regularly to keep it moist.

Painted Turtle nest and eggs

October 7, 2013

Happened to be passing by the freezer and checked the turtle eggs. One had hatched and crawled up out of the sand. Dug around and found 4 more had hatched. They're tiny, only about 5 cm long, nose to tail, their shells are only half that long (2.5 cm), but when I took them out of the pail they were alert and active. The yolk sac attachment point on their plastrons (underside of the shell) were pretty much sealed up already. I remember that that was not the case with the Snapping Turtles I had hatched out. The Painted Turtle babies seem more advanced at hatching than were the Snappers.

The first hatchlings

October 8, 2013

I checked the pail again this morning and found that five more had hatched. Guess this proves the first batch did hatch yesterday or maybe the day before, and weren't just discovered that day after sitting there for a while. These guys are equally well developed, too. I'll keep them with the others in a pail with some damp paper towels until I get a chance to set up a proper aquarium for them. As they are just hatched I want to make sure they're all healthy and alert before dumping them in any water.

Ten little turtle bellies

October 9, 2013

Today I set up a small aquarium as a temporary home for the turtles. It has only shallow water for now and a bit of "land" for them to get up on to. There is a light to provide them with some heat for basking. I tried feeding them today with some bits of lettuce and a small piece of fish fillet, but although they are quite active at times, none of them seemed interested in any of the food. For the most part they seem quite content to just sit still. That they wouldn't be actively eating or moving about isn't surprising though. They still have part of their yolk sacs inside their bellies and they are still developing and adjusting to not being all scrunched up inside eggs. I remember that with the Snapping Turtles it was almost a month after hatching before they were eating well. It will be interesting to see how that compares to these guys.

The temporary home

October 12, 2013

I still only have the ten turtles, the remaining five eggs don't look like they're going to hatch, they are turning brown and starting to shrivel. I tried putting in some food again, one of them took some bites, but it doesn't look like it actually swallowed anything. Again, I removed the bits of fish from the aquarium after a few hours so they wouldn't foul the water.

October 15, 2013

All ten of the turtles are looking healthy. They are active at times, but still spend most of the time just sitting around. Only one or two have fully emerged and sat on the rocks for any length of time. Most of them try to cram up against the rocks or even bury under the rocks, trying to stay out of sight, I guess. That seems like a good survival strategy for a baby turtle: move around as little as possible and stay hidden. I tried feeding them again and a couple of them were biting at the fish again, but still didn't seem to be ingesting any of the food.

October 17, 2013

Everybody's still looking good. I tried feeding them again today and one or two are making more serious attempts at eating. The piece of fish I put in is looking a little frayed, like they might actually be pulling bits off.

Eating and digging

October 21, 2013

All the turtles are fine. They're still not eating much. Only one still has its egg tooth. I did an interview with CBC Radio Noon host Marilyn Maki today about the guys. Here's the CBC News link: Man raises rescued turtles. Or you can download the Radio Noon Interview (7.7 Mb).

The size of the little guys

October 23, 2013

The guys are starting to show more interest in food, but they're still not doing much eating. I put in some plastic plants and that has changed their habits quite a bit. Instead of trying to dig under the rocks to hide (which was causing me some anxiety) they seem content to hide among the plants. They are clearly quite happy just hiding out, which makes sense when you think about how vulnerable and bite-sized they are.

Plants in the aquarium

November 1, 2013

The guys are all still healthy, but they not eating significantly, yet. A few have taken some nibbles from the bits of fish I've put in, but they're not chowing-down when food shows up. Getting a little concerned about the situation.

November 8, 2013

The guys still aren't eating significantly, I'm getting concerned now, though they all still seem healthy. I've increased the water level in the aquarium. They spend more time basking now than they used to. I'm going to try them on some different types of food to see if I can stimulate their appetites.

The new aquarium set up

November 15, 2013

Finally, the guys have started eating. I tried some new food items, blood worms, goldfish flakes and prepared hatchling turtle food (which comes as tiny pellets). I'm not really sure whether they were just ready to eat or these smaller items were more to their liking. The movement of the small bits of food in the water seemed to attract their attention better and the small bits (blood worms and pellets especially) seemed easier for them to grab and swallow. I still wouldn't call their feeding activity a frenzy by any means, but at least they are getting some grub down their gullets. There is clear disparity among them however, some are better eaters than others, but all still seem healthy for now.

November 22, 2013

What a difference a week makes! Now, when I drop in food it is almost a feeding frenzy. The guys react quickly to the "plop" sound of a block of blood worms hitting the water, and they're nibbling at it before it melts. I tried giving them some pieces of raw fish again, too, and that elicited a quick response. They are still not great at ripping pieces off the fish, but they are persistent and end up shredding it to bits. It is a real relief to have them eating well now, though one or two are clearly the "runts of the litter" and are not doing as well as the rest. I haven't noticed any appreciable growth yet, but their behaviour has changed a lot. They are much more "aware" and active now. If I walk by the aquarium and there's some on the rock basking, they jump off and swim away quickly, showing a good anti-predator response.

Finally, some feeding action!

November 29, 2013

The guys are looking and acting more like real turtles with every passing week now. By that I mean I am seeing more of what I consider to be normal turtle behaviour and attitude. They respond quickly when a block of frozen blood worms or other food item is dropped in the water, they are more active and inquisitive in general and take notice of me when I pass by the tank. It's a little concerning that they may be starting to associate a human with food, but I am confident that upon release they will revert to being wary of humans and other animals in general. (I have a captive Red-eared Slider turtle that I got when I was a kid, she's now 44 years old. She lives in a large outdoor pool in summers and still jumps off the rock where she's been basking when I approach. Forty-four years in captivity and she's still wary!)

Oh, and the guys have a new home now. I upgraded them to a larger aquarium. The larger tank requires less frequent cleaning and gives them more swimming practice. Turtles need deeper water to learn how to swim and control their buoyancy properly.

Basking in the new digs!

December 6, 2013

Sad news this week, two of the guys died. Not sure what happened though they both died quite rapidly, nothing wrong one day, then dead the next. The only thing different was a new batch of bloodworms. Perhaps they were tainted in some way or the two happened to gorge on them and suffered blocked intestines, an all too common killer of reptiles in captivity. I have halted feeding them the bloodworms for now, just in case. The remaining guys are eating bits of fish and the pelletized food and all seem to be OK.

December 13, 2013

Not much to report this week, all the guys are fine. I haven't fed them any of the bloodworms since last week. They've been eating bits of fish filet and prepared food. Once they're done eating they just loaf around or bask on the rock. Aah, the life of a turtle.

January 17, 2014

Hmm, haven't been too diligent with my blog updates lately, partly because of the holidays and partly as there hasn't been much to report. Lost one more of the guys last week, and likely will only have 4 of them survive until spring. For unknown reasons 4 of them are doing well, eating regularly and growing and the remaining 3 are doing poorly. As you can see in the picture the healthy guys have grown considerably, while the others just seem to be struggling. Same environment, same food, the food's never lacking, yet some are thriving while some are fading. I noticed the same thing in a batch of Snapping Turtles I raised. I've no idea why this disparity occurs.

Doing well, doing poorly.

February 7, 2014

Sadly, I'm down to three remaining turtles. These three seem healthy and are eating well. I've no idea what the problem has been with the other ones. A couple of seemingly healthy ones died rapidly in the last couple of weeks. It's very frustrating. If anyone has has any ideas or suggestions drop me a line at: Contact NatureNorth.

March 7, 2014

And then there were two. The frustration continues. The remaining two seem fine and are eating well, and have grown significantly. I hope they make it. Time will tell.

March 28, 2014

The two remaining turtles seem to be doing fine. They are eating well, basking a lot and are quite active. Won't be long now before I can release them, I hope.

April 18, 2014

And then there were none. The last two turtles died within the last couple of weeks. Man, this has been a frustrating experience. I've no idea why seemingly healthy turtles can up and die in a day or two. Disease, malnutrition, aquarium imbalance, congenital problems? I just don't know. In all my years of raising all sorts of critters, I've never encountered this situation, it's maddening. Still, I did learn a lot about baby Painted Turtles, so it was a valuable, though sad, experience. Under the circumstances that they came into my care I thought I was doing what was best for these animals. Would I act differently if the situation came up again? Probably not. I've always had a soft spot for turtles and I will always do what I can to help critters that come into my care. I don't take animals from the wild without good reason and my goal, always, is to return them to where they belong.

The end of Baby Turtle Blog.

Thanks for following the Baby Turtle Blog! Bye for now!

Here's some more herpetologically inclined articles you might like:

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