Turtle Eggs Accidentally Dug Up?

What to do if you Accidentally Dig Up a Nest of Turtle Eggs?

Turtles bury their eggs in sandy beaches

This guide (in French only) is intended to provide information on the disposal of turtle eggs when a nest is accidentally dug up. It was developed as part of the implementation of the Quebec turtle recovery plan.

CAUTION: Never collect eggs and transport them to an institution, laboratory or zoo with the expectation that the organism in question will hatch them. In Québec, it is prohibited under the Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife to capture or keep native turtles in captivity without a permit.

JUTRAS, J. et S. GIGUÈRE. 2010. Guide concernant la disposition des œufs de tortues déterrés accidentellement. Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune et Environnement Canada. 11 pages. PDF in French only.


According to article 26 of the Act respecting the conservation and development of Quebec wildlife (RSQ c. C-61.1) “no one may disturb, destroy or damage the beaver dam or the eggs, the nest or the den of an animal ”. Thus, within the meaning of this law, it is forbidden to disturb, destroy or damage a turtle nest. It is therefore the duty of land managers, municipalities, entrepreneurs, citizens, in short the community, to avoid any disturbance of these nests during the egg incubation period extending from June 1 to October 15. However, it may not be possible under certain circumstances to detect the presence of these nests. This guide is aimed at both individuals and entrepreneurs..

If the excavated nest contains turtles out of their shells: Usually, these small turtles dig through the ground to the surface and find their way to the water by themselves. If they are accidentally dug up, it will be important to put them in the water as close as possible to the nest, since each population is distinct and well adapted to its environment.

When handling turtles, it is preferable to wear sterile gloves in order to prevent contact with insecticides or contaminants (oils, grease) that you may have on your hands. If you don’t have such gloves, wash hands before and after handling.

If the eggs have not hatched, the best solution is to recreate the turtle’s nest at the same site. Three reasons support this : (1) this site was selected by the female for its characteristics (sunshine, type of substrate, humidity, etc.); (2) it is necessary to minimize the handling and transport of the eggs given their fragility and; (3) the turtle that laid eggs at this site comes from a body of water located in this area, it is therefore important that the young turtles from these eggs return to the same area. It is for these reasons that relocating turtle nests should be considered a technique of last resort. To recreate a nest and handle the eggs, please refer to the full document.


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