|eastern river cooter turtle|
When I finally walked around behind her, I could see that she was using her back feet to move the clay towards her stomach. We continued to watch her as she finished packing the earth and then tried to throw some grass on top of it. Lots of luck there, turtle, we have crappy bermuda grass here! When she was satisfied, she took off on a stroll across our backyard and patio, and then went up the slight rise to the back of our lot making her way back towards the lake.
We surmised that she had just laid her eggs, and after researching on the internet I am convinced that was indeed what she was doing. She is an eastern river cooter, I believe. We have several dozen of them in a nearby cove. Cooters grow to be 9-12" in length on average, but can get to be over 16" long.
As I read more about cooters, they normally lay 7-18 eggs! Female turtles can hold fertilized eggs for several months, so it will be hard to predict when the babies might hatch. The nest is right on the property line between us and our neighbors, so we quickly stuck some flags around the spot to mark it. I want to make sure that the mowing crew here doesn't disturb it too much. The mother will not return to the nest, so the babies will be on their own.
It will be fun to watch and see what happens over the next few months. At the very least it will be a distraction from the COVID-19 pandemic. As James Bryant Conant said, "Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out."