what do turtles do in the winter

What do Turtles do in the Winter?

Turtles are a hardy group of animals, though even they must take precautions against the cold winter temperatures. To survive the winter, turtles will follow a few adopted behaviors that help keep them warm and healthy.


Many aquatic species of turtles will head for warmer waters for the winter, usually deeper waters that stay at a higher temperate even in the cold winter months. This migration will usually begin in the fall, and it’s not unusual to see a flock of turtles leaving a pond or small body of water in search of more temperate waters.


Most turtles, to survive the cold winter temperatures, will go into a state of hibernation. During hibernation, turtles will burrow themselves deep into the mud or dirt where they are insulated from even the coldest temperatures. The body functions of the turtle during hibernation such as heart and breathing rates will slow significantly, using up much less energy.

Behaviors to Survive

Turtles have several other behaviors that help them to survive the winter, including the following:

  • Snapping Turtles – Snapping turtles will hibernate on the bottom of a river or pond. If the water is shallow enough and the mud sufficiently deep, the turtles will bury themselves in the mud and not emerge until the following spring.
  • Box Turtles – Box Turtles will retreat to a burrow that they dig near logs or stone walls. This burrow is usually a little deeper than the ground and continues for several feet. Box turtles will hibernate individually, but will also sometimes burrow side by side with other box turtles.
  • Aquatic Turtles – Aquatic turtles can either migrate to warmer waters during the winter or build nests on land where they can hibernate safely. Sometimes they will move around even during the winter to find warmer spots on land or in the water.


At the end of the winter, turtles will emerge again and begin their activities. With so many different behaviors that help protect them during the winter, it’s easy to see why turtles are a sturdy species of animal that has been around for millions of years.

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