Is It a Boy or Girl Turtle?

It's obvious-you can tell whether a turtle is a boy or a girl easily. If the shell is pink it's a girl, and if it's blue it's a boy. Just kidding, of course!

Of course, turtles know the difference, but for you and me it takes a little observation. It may be hard to determine the gender in a smaller, younger turtle, but the differences between older male and female turtles are pretty easy to spot if you know what you're looking for.

The shell will tell

One pretty accurate way to tell the difference it to turn them over and look at the bottom of their shell, also called the plastron. A male turtle has a flat or concave plastron, meaning that the shell bows in a little. In a female, the plastron is convex, or a little rounder.

Male turtles have long front claws and a longer, thicker tail while females have short front claws and a stubby tail. A male's cloaca, the opening they use to get rid of excrement and for reproduction, is closer to the tip of his tail. In a female the cloaca, used for both excrement and laying eggs, is closer to her body.

Here's another easy way to tell: just look into their eyes. Female turtles have lighter colored eyes while a male's eyes are reddish orange.

Eggcellent turtle egg advice

Of course, if a turtle lays eggs, the difference is pretty obvious. In the wild, box turtles usually lay a clutch-or nest-of eggs between May and July and another one later in the summer. Box turtle eggs are generally protected by law. If you come upon a clutch of box turtle eggs in the wild, you should simply leave it alone.

It's not unusual to find a nest of turtle eggs in your yard. If the eggs are out of the way and in no danger from predators, you can simply leave them where they are. If they're in an unsafe location, you can move them, but it's important to put them back exactly as you found them.

Before moving the eggs, mark the top of each shell with a felt tipped marker and make sure you place the eggs top up or the baby will probably die. Find a secluded spot and dig a shallow hole in the soil. Place the eggs in the hole and lightly and partially cover it with loose soil. The radiant heat of the summer sun is all turtle eggs need to hatch successfully.

If you have a pet box turtle, your female could lay eggs any time. If the eggs are fertile, you should make arrangements to protect them so the mother won't accidentally break them. You can move your eggs to a separate enclosure, positioning them top up just like eggs in the wild and covering them lightly with soil. A turtle's sex is determined by the temperature of incubation depending on the type of turtle you have. If you maintain the heat at 84 degrees, either sex can develop. At 90 degrees and hotter your eggs may spoil, so watch your temperature carefully and make sure your eggs are out of direct heat. In about 50 days your eggs should hatch.

Turtles are interesting to watch both in the wild and in captivity, but box turtles reproduce best in the wild.

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