Secret lives of baby turtles   1 comment

As people, we are very lucky to have our parents to take care of us early on in life. Can you imagine what would happen if we were left to fend for ourselves just after being born? Well, that sort of life is reality for turtles!

Comparing the size of a one-year-old Blanding’s turtle in my hand with an adult. These two were found sharing a small pool for hibernation. (Photo: J. Paterson)


After laying their eggs, mother turtles leave their youngsters to fend for themselves. As baby turtles come out of their nest in late summer, they must learn quickly to find somewhere safe or they could be in trouble! Big turtles have hard shells to protect themselves from scary animals like racoons, foxes, and coyotes, but the shells of baby turtles are too soft to be of any use.


I spent two years following the lives of baby Blanding’s turtles in Algonquin Provincial Park using special transmitters glued to the turtles’ shells.

A cute baby Blanding’s turtle with a transmitter glued to the top of its shell. These turtles are only 3 - 4 cm long when they come out of their egg but they can move more than 100 m in one day! (Photo: J. Paterson)

Despite being so young, these baby turtles are sneaky! One day, after spending hours digging through rotting leaves on the shore of a swamp, I was almost ready to give up on ever finding the two hatchling turtles hidden there. My assistant, ready to quit for the day, then punched a tree root in the hole we had dug. She accidentally punched a hole in the root, and neither of us was ready for what was INSIDE the root. There they were, not just the two turtles with transmitters, but also three other baby turtles. It was late fall, and all of the turtles were inside the hollow root ready to enter hibernation for their first winter.

Here are five hatchling Blanding’s turtles that were hiding inside a root underground. They were found using the transmitter seen on the shell of two turtles. (Photo: J. Paterson)

Against all odds, some hatchling turtles successfully make it to sites to hibernate safely. But, one way to make this journey easier for tiny turtles is to protect the habitat that these turtles live in. Forests may be dangerous for little turtles but roads and big buildings are even worse. By following baby turtles I hope that we can protect habitat for the babies and adults of this beautiful turtle!

— James Paterson


Posted February 11, 2012 by thinkingturtles in Uncategorized

One response to “Secret lives of baby turtles

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  1. Fascinating!

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