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Two soft shell turtles hatch at CROW

By Staff | Jul 6, 2017

Two baby soft shell turtles hatched after incubating for 90 days.

Two soft shell turtles, after 90 days of incubation, hatched on the Fourth of July at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife hospital.

CROW Rehabber Rachel Walsh said a mother soft shell turtle came into CROW at the beginning of April after being hit by a car. She said they ended up euthanizing the turtle due to the severity of the injuries – carapace and plastron fracture, both her top and bottom.

The mother had about 18 eggs that were not crushed, or broken, which CROW was able to remove and save.

“Usually they incubate for about 60 to 70 days, but this specific clutch took 90 days,” Walsh said.

She said throughout the incubation period they noticed when mold started to grow, or if they were not becoming viable. A way they checked the eggs viability was with a light, either a cell phone light or a flash light.

This baby soft shell turtle hatched on the Fourth of July at CROW.

“Just turn off the lights and hold it up to the egg to see if there are any veins starting to develop, or if there is any life in there. Unfortunately a lot of them didn’t,” she said, adding that those were discarded. “There were four that showed good signs, so we decided to keep those.”

Two of the four eggs hatched on the Fourth of July, both with abnormally large yolk sacs. Walsh said the larger yolk sacs can be pretty concerning because if ruptured it could be pretty deadly to the baby turtles.

“When they hatch, they have what is called a yolk sac. It provides all of the nutrients for them and they end up absorbing it over a few days. That gives them enough nutrition until they can find enough food and shelter on their own,” Walsh said.

One of the turtles completely broke off its yolk sac.

“He had a little tear in it and it started to bleed and detached from him. It’s kind of concerning because he is losing all of those nutrients,” Walsh said. “But he is still alive. We are now concerned for the little opening in his stomach. We don’t want that to get infected. We are monitoring it.”

Two soft shell turtle eggs, which were saved after the mother was hit by a car and euthanized, should be hatching any day now.

The soft shell turtles begin eating as soon as they hatch, so she said they fed him minnows and little fish to give him the nutrients he needs.

The other soft shell turtle is absorbing his yolk sac. Although it’s a little large, it’s taking a little bit longer, but looks good overall.

The incubator at CROW is now housing eggs from four mothers, all who did not live due to injuries.

“We have well over 30 eggs down there from three other mothers,” she said of the first floor of the hospital. “We have some that are molding over and don’t look well and we know they are not going to make it, so we are going to toss them out. But, we know there are a few that are going to make it. There are maybe five or six that are starting to calcify over, which is a good sign.”

As soon as the soft shell turtles absorb their egg sac, Walsh said they try and release them back into the wild.

While the egg sacs are being absorbed, she said they do not put them in water right away, but rather on a wet towel. After it is absorbed they are put into the water and if they are diving and swimming correctly and not showing any neurological signs, they will be released.

“It can be anywhere from five days to two weeks,” before being released, Walsh said.

The other two eggs from the clutch look good.

“When we candle lit them yesterday we could see them moving,” Walsh said Thursday morning. “They are in there. These other two are going to be longer than 90 days.”

She said after the mother soft shell turtle lays their eggs they never come back.

“They don’t have any protective instinct,” Walsh said about the mothers, adding that the babies “have the natural instinct to know what to do.”