what happens to turtles in the winter

What happens to Turtles During Winter?

Turtle species exist all across the globe — from the warm, tropical coasts to cooler spots with occasional snow. So, with winter comes the question of how do turtles survive in winter?

Turtle Winter Adaptations

Turtles have a few winter adaptations. These adaptations help them survive the cold weather and keep them safe until springtime. Here’s a few ways turtles protect themselves during the winter:

  • Hibernate:The most common winter adaptation for turtles is hibernation. Turtles will bed down in the mud of lakes and ponds, and will slow down their metabolism and go into a dream-like state. Consequently, they will minimize their energy consumption, and will eat very little.
  • Seek Shelter:Another adaptation turtles employ is seeking shelter. Depending on the species, the turtle will search for places with warmer temperatures or where rain and snow are kept out. They may take shelter under a log, in a shallow cave, or burrow in the mud or ground.
  • Change Diets: Lastly, as winter approaches, turtles also need to change their diets from eating bugs and fish to carnivorous diets where they might feed on dead fish or animal scraps.

How To Help a Turtle During Winter

There are ways to help turtles during the winter if you come across one that appears to be in trouble. Here are a few helpful tips to follow:

  • Don’t Disturb: Unless the turtle is in danger, do not move or disturb it. If they are hibernating, they don’t awaken until the water begins to warm up.
  • Keep Water Open: Ice could block the turtle’s access to oxygen and prevent it from surfacing. If you see an area of ice beginning to form, break it to ensure the turtle has access to air.
  • Provide Shelter: During cold, rainy days, turtles may need help finding a safe place to keep warm and dry. As long as it’s close to the water, placing items, such as logs, around the turtle’s environment may help and give it the shelter it needs for winter.


Winter can be a grueling season for any animal, but turtles can get through it by adapting their behavior and employing methods, such as hibernation, shelter-seeking, and changing dietary habits. However, if you come across a turtle in trouble during the winter, you can help by not disturbing it, keeping it’s water open, and providing it shelter when necessary.

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