Very small Painted Turtles are appearing in our ponds and all of them are survivors of a near-death experience.
Painted Turtle eggs hatch in the fall, but the nickel-sized hatchlings usually remain underground in the shallow nest their mother made for them in the summer. When the ground freezes, so do they – their hearts and other organs cease to function, they get no oxygen, they’re virtually dead, and some do die if the nest temperature goes below 25 (F). Painted Turtles reportedly are the “highest” (most developed) vertebrates able to survive in a frozen state. In the spring or early summer, the young turtles dig themselves out and seek a watery home.
An older Painted Turtle basking on the same rock is shown above for comparison. These adults usually hibernate during the winter in the muck at the bottom of ponds, where they’re not likely to freeze. In the summer, however, they soak up as much sun as possible: