Yertle, the Western Pond Turtle

© David Rosen/Wildside Photography

Yertle and her siblings were just hatching, when a homeowner digging a small backyard pond with a tractor, scooped up their entire nest. All the neighborhood children took one of the baby turtles home. Before coming to Splash, Yertle spent time as a family pet and one year in a science classroom. Yertle was thought to be a male until “he” laid four unfertilized eggs one spring. That was quite a surprise!

In the wild, Western Pond Turtles live in ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, creeks, marshes, and irrigation ditches. They prefer still or slow-moving water, with abundant vegetation and a muddy bottom. Since they’re cold-blooded reptiles, they need logs, rocks, or other objects on which to bask in the sun to warm their bodies.

They eat lots of different things, including aquatic plants, insects, worms, tadpoles, salamander eggs and larvae, crayfish, carrion (dead, rotting meat), and occasionally fish and adult frogs. Young Western Pond Turtles are preyed upon by a wide range of creatures, such as hawks, weasels, large fish, and bullfrogs. Predators of adults include raccoons and coyotes. Wild Western Pond Turtles will quickly slide into the water when danger approaches.

Western Pond Turtles escape the cold winter and the hot dry summer by burying themselves in the soft mud. Sometime between April and August, females climb onto land to dig a nest, where they lay between two and eleven eggs.

Yertle is 9 years old. Her favorite foods are big earthworms, garden snails, and small fish.