Leopard Tortoise Egg Laying Series
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When a tortoise nears laying time she will begin to wander looking for a suitable site. Often she will smell the ground and dig test holes. We can always tell when our tortoises are digging test holes because they are dry. When she is digging the actual nest she will urinate on the ground as she is digging to soften the ground. Tortoises will urinate so much that they turn the ground into mud as they dig. This mud is obvious on these photos on either side of the hole.
Tortoises will alternate digging with their hind legs. While they are digging they will scrape their toenails across the ground and then, with the sole of their feet facing up like a scoop, move their foot outside the hole and dump the dirt. This action can be clearly seen in these photos. This style of digging will continue until the female cannot reach any further. The end result is a hole that is deeper than you might expect. Our females dig up to about 8" deep. Tortoise nests are wider at the bottom than the top.
It is easy to see in this photo how Isabell is holding her foot to scoop dirt out of the hole. While a tortoise is digging she will be almost as if she were in a trance due to the effects of the hormones that are making her dig.
This page last updated August 28, 2000
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