Dr. Dan Svedarsky, head of the Center for Sustainability at the U of M Crookston, found three Eastern painted turtle eggs on his property on the Pankratz Prairie in June after a skunk had ransacked their nest.
He contacted Vanessa Lane, Ph.D., a lecturer in Fisheries and Wildlife Management at UMC, to she if she was interested in incubating them in the hopes of a successful hatch.
The trio of turtles hatched in July and have been growing and getting stronger since. The trio of turtles was released Wednesday in a pond on Svedarky's property. UMC students Alisha Mosloff and Jenna Blace assisted with the release as part of the new UMC herpetology course that Lane teaches.
Lane tells the story best:
"Dan Svedarsky told me about a painted turtle nest he had been watching in his yard by Panktratz Prairie just east of Crookston. A young skunk kit had dug up the nest and eaten all but three of the eggs. Unfortunately, the remaining three eggs were beginning to dry out because they had been unearthed. Dan knew that I bred reptiles (ball pythons and leopard geckos) as a hobby, so he contacted me if I would like to try incubating the eggs. I agreed and put the turtle eggs in my incubator at home. Thirty-days later (incubation period for painted turtles is around 60 days) three tiny little turtles hatched out!
"When turtles hatch, their shells are still quite soft, especially their bellies where they finish absorbing their yolk (reptiles do have belly buttons, even turtles!). They also don't eat for 1-2 weeks after they hatch because they are still living on the remains of their yolk, which at that point is inside their body cavity. Baby turtles are very vulnerable when they first hatch and are eaten by almost everything. I kept them in a plastic sterilite container outside covered in hardware mesh so crows couldn't eat them, but they were still exposed to all-important ultraviolet light, which allows them to metabolize vitamin D3 and turn calcium into bone and shell (just like us). After a week they began eating small live insects and commercial turtle pellets.
"I raised them for about a month until they were eating and growing well, and their shells had fully hardened. Wednesday they were ready to go home... back to the pond at Dan's house they probably would've walked to had they hatched there. As we were releasing the babies, we saw an adult female painted turtle in the center of the pond (you can tell because males have very long fingernails and tend to be smaller), perhaps it was their mother? It was a lovely day and the students got to learn all about turtles."