Why Do Turtles Dig Holes?

Turtles have some funny quirks to their personalities that make it rather plain just how different they are from us.

Today, we’re going to take a look at why turtles have a tendency to dig holes.

We’ll go over some of the main reasons why they do so, and we’ll also answer some frequently asked questions about their behavior.

Why Do Turtles Dig Holes?

The main reason turtles dig holes is to get ready to lay eggs. Other reasons for turtles to dig holes is to hibernate or to find sources of food. 

Reasons Why Turtles Dig Holes

While you have your answers up above, this section will be dedicated to going into greater detail about the reasons why turtles instinctively dig holes.

Turtles Digging Holes to Hibernate

Since turtles have colder blood than human beings, they find it more challenging to regulate their body temperature.

To make it easier to do so, turtles and other cold-blooded creatures tend to use the environment to their advantage when they have to manage their body temperature, and this becomes crucial when they hibernate.

Also read -> Can Turtles Live In Cold Water?

In fact, turtles need to hibernate because of how difficult it is for them to manage their body temperature.

According to anapsid.org, When the temperature gets lower than 50 degrees F (10 degrees C), turtles are unable to function properly because of their cold blood coupled with the even colder weather.

When the time comes for turtles to hibernate, they’ll have to find a way to protect themselves and conserve their body heat during their hibernation cycle.

Turtles try to find a place to hibernate instinctively, as they know that they’ll be in trouble if they don’t have a good place to wait out the cold weather.

As the temperature gradually drops, turtle bodies start functioning less efficiently.

Turtles will lose their appetite and they will get far more sluggish than usual as if they’re tired.

Automatic functions in their bodies will also get less effective, with their breathing slowing down along with their digestive system.

Slower respiration means that turtles will have a harder time generating energy to power their bodies.

This results in the sluggishness that we mentioned earlier.

Through being slower and expending less energy, turtles are able to stretch their small reserves of energy further until they find a place to hibernate.

This is the point where turtles start digging so they can conserve their body heat and their energy.

Since a turtle in a hole will be surrounded by the earth, they won’t have to worry about losing as much of their body heat to the cold air, as the dirt around them will serve to insulate them.

Keep in mind that turtles don’t only dig themselves in during the colder months, as they may also dig a hole when their temperature is difficult to regulate on the other end of the scale.

During the warmest months of the year, a turtle may dig itself into a hole so it can press itself against the cool earth.

This helps cool off a turtle’s blood, ensuring that it doesn’t overheat, as that’s just as dangerous to a turtle as the cold during the winter months.

However, if you see a turtle digging a hole in the summertime, don’t always assume that it’s doing so to stay cool, as it may also be laying its eggs, which we’ll discuss in the next section.

Turtles Digging Holes to Lay Eggs

When the time comes to reproduce, turtles know a thing or two about protecting their young, and that includes digging a hole so the eggs have the best possible chance of hatching.

Digging a hole is one of the best ways for turtles to protect their eggs from both the environment and potential predators.

Whereas eggs out in the open would be an easy catch for an enterprising predator when they’re dug into a hole, they’re protected from the elements and a lot harder to find.

Turtle predators like wolves and rats tend to smell out turtles, and these holes help disperse some of the scent to keep the eggs safe.

One of the main indicators that a mother turtle is digging a hole to protect her young is when she’s digging the hole with her hind legs.

Since turtles lay eggs with their rear end, digging the hole with her rear legs allows the mother turtle to easily transition between digging the hole and laying her eggs.

Turtles aren’t stupid, and they know that a single hole would be easy for a potential predator to find.

To prevent the eggs from being an easy target in the hole, turtles will also surround the holes that they have dug for their eggs with decoy holes that don’t contain anything.

Turtles Digging Holes to Find Food

This is the least common reason why you’d see a turtle digging a hole, but it doesn’t make it impossible.

Turtles are omnivorous creatures, like human beings, meaning that they can eat both vegetables and other animals, and when they can’t find vegetables, they’ll need to look for a convenient source of protein.

Turtles tend to dig holes for food when they’re underwater, as this makes it easier for them to dig through the layers of sediment to find their prey.

When a turtle digs a hole for food, it’s usually with the goal of finding vulnerable insects like worms or other subterranean creatures.

Keep in mind that a turtle looking for food will not dig a very deep hole.

Deep holes are typically reserved for hibernation or for reproduction. If you notice your turtle digging shallow holes in its enclosure, that may be a sign that your turtle is getting hungry and you may wish to feed it.

If your turtle is digging underwater, odds are that it doesn’t need to lay eggs, as turtles usually come ashore to lay their eggs on dry land.

Also, read

Can Turtles Jump?

Can Turtles See in the Dark?

Do Turtles Fart?