Wild Turtle Protected Nesting Boxes

Joined
Jul 11, 2021
Messages
2
Location (City and/or State)
Greenville,SC
Bottom Line up front, I want to build some protected areas for Box Turtles near me to lay their eggs in, to increase the survivability of their clutches. I am looking for some advice on the design, and how to get the turtles to use them. To clarify, these are intented to protect the eggs of wild Box Turtles, not keeping them.

For those who don't know, Box Turtles lay their eggs in loose, sandy soil in direct sunlight, which allows the sun to incubate the eggs, while still getting enough oxygen to the eggs. The problem for box turtles is that the majority of those egg clutches don't survive to hatch. Humans tend to pave, dig up, mow, plow, or make lawns out of the flat ground with direct sunlight. Ground covers like Bermuda and St. Augustine grasses grow well in this soil, and humans plant it EVERYWHERE to prevent erosion. Box Turtles can't dig through the dense root systems of these non-native plants, and where they do find places to nest, it is often dug up by dogs, raccoons, or other things.

My idea is to build covered nesting boxes, basically a simple frame with a wire roof and sides. Leave about 6-8 in of clearance on the bottom, to let turtles walk in unobstructed, but keep dogs and people out (Sadly won't stop raccoons, but they are at least a natural predator). I plan on building them near the woods and cover that Box Turtles live in, but ensure they are on sandy soil in clear sunlight. I am going to run this as a volunteer event, and try to build dozens of them all over my area, getting permission from parks and businesses to place them.
What I need help with is any advice or tips of how to best attract female turtles to using them. I assume placement is most important, but I do want these to be as effective as they can be. So, any turtle behavior experts have any advice?
 

Yvonne G

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I don't have advice for you, but it's been my experience Mama turtle digs her nest where SHE wants it, not where YOU want it.

This is a wonderful idea. I hope it works.
 

MichaelL

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It seems like a good idea, but I just think it'd be impossible to make a female lay in a desired place. Like, even in our indoor enclosures with nest areas provided, they lay where they choose- many times not even in the nest area. Good luck, I don't really have ideas but I think you'll have a hard time. Best thing to do would find a female in the act of laying and then protect that spot with something.
 
Joined
Jul 11, 2021
Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
Greenville,SC
I don't have advice for you, but it's been my experience Mama turtle digs her nest where SHE wants it, not where YOU want it.

This is a wonderful idea. I hope it works.
Right, I am just looking to find spots that maximize the chances. I know of one area with at least 3 nests within about 10 foot of each other, so that is where I plan to build the first one (Two of them might be test holes, I saw her lay eggs in one). But I would really like to provide some safe areas for them around town, hoping to maximize the chances of them being used.
 

PJay

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I have found through gardening activities that female box turtles are attracted to freshly tilled moist soil in hot summer weather. I've had a couple nest in vegetable rows I prepare for fall planting. I cover the nests with heavy gauge wire frames weighted down with rocks or bricks to keep the raccoons out. The raccoons know the nests are there and will actively try to get through the wire, so make sure they are sturdy.
 

m irwin

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Feb 4, 2021
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Dallas
I don't think you could attract the females to the nesting area other than to make it most palatable to them as in loose soil, moist, etc. I guess you could till in compost to loosen the soil and keep it somewhat more wet than the surrounding area, but whether it attracts them is unlikely. Many years of box turtle ownership has shown me that they dig nests where they please, and in some of the worst places from a humans perspective. I too cover nests I know about with wire mess to protect them from predators.
 
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