Why Do Turtles Dig Holes?

turtles dig holes

Is your pet turtle digging holes? Have you ever noticed a turtle in the wild digging holes?

Turtles, unlike dogs, always have a very good reason for digging a hole. Those reasons include layings eggs, regulating their body temperature, and hunting for food. Figuring out why they dig a hole can oftentimes prove difficult, but it is almost always one of the above reasons. 

Here’s Why Your Turtle Is Digging Holes

Turtles dig holes for three main reasons. But figuring out why they are digging a hole is often difficult without some advanced knowledge. Here are some tips for figuring out the reasons. 

Laying Eggs

Most turtles you see digging a hole do so to build a nest for their eggs. They dig a hole, lay eggs in the hole, and then bury the eggs in the hole. 

Turtles do not lay eggs in exposed areas as a lot of predators love eating their eggs. In fact, predators will often dig up a nest just to eat the eggs. Due to that, you might see turtles digging dummy nests to throw off predators. 

You can easily tell if a turtle is digging a hole to lay eggs if you observe them laying eggs in the hole. They will obviously not lay eggs in a dummy nest as that would defeat the purpose. A dummy nest will often not have as much depth as a real nest, either. 

Regulating Temperature

As a cold blooded animal, turtles do not have any internal mechanism to regulate their body temperature like a warmblooded animal. 

This can prove difficult when the temperature drops below 50F as they stop eating entirely and become very lethargic. To avoid that from happening, as it would almost surely result in death, they seek out shelter that will protect them from the elements. Common shelters for turtles in the winter include caves, trees, and underbrush.

If they can not find any shelter, then they will make their own by digging a hole in the ground. The ground keeps a fairly constant temperature even in the winter, which means they can stay warm enough to make it through the winter. 

Now, if you see a turtle digging a hole on a blistering hot day, then that means it has overheated. You will sometimes see a turtle resting in a hole on a hot day in order to bring their body temperature down to a more reasonable level. 

You probably will not see a turtle digging a hole on a hot day, though. They prefer to hangout in the shade or a cool place rather than exerting the energy necessary to dig a hole. 

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Searching for Food

Finally, you may see a turtle digging a hole to search for food. This is not particularly common as turtles often have abundant food sources available above ground, but they will sometimes scratch the ground to dig up a worm or insect. 

We do not really consider this scratching the ground digging a hole. But it sometimes appears that the turtle is in the beginning process of digging a hole when they are simply attempting to grab a worm or insect. 

If your pet turtle scratches the ground looking for a worm or insect, then you probably need to feed your turtle a little more. A well-fed turtle will not bother digging in the ground to pick out worms or insects. 

Should I Be Concerned That My Turtle Is Digging Holes?

It is not a major concern if your pet turtle is digging a hole. However, you are most likely doing something wrong unless you have a turtle laying eggs. 

Our first recommendation is to check the temperature. Is the temperature below 50F?

If yes, then you should definitely add some sort of heater. The turtle is too cold and is trying to warm itself up by burying itself in the sand or dirt. 

If the temperature is above 50F, then how much do you feed the turtle? 

A turtle will often dig around in the sand or dirt to search for worms or insects. A pet turtle should never be hungry enough to do that, which means you need to feed it more food. Make sure you have the turtle on a proper diet to ensure that it actually eats the food. 

Finally, if your turtle is digging a hole to lay eggs, then that’s perfectly normal. You will have some extra pet turtles in a few months. 

Closing Thoughts

Turtles have three reasons to dig a hole. All those reasons come back to survival or reproduction. You will never see a turtle digging a hole for fun the same way dogs often dig holes for fun. 

If your pet turtle digs a hole, then it’s either laying eggs, adjusting its body temperature, or searching for food. We recommend making some feeding adjustments or temperature adjustments if the turtle is not laying eggs. 

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