Many pond owners hope to attract a few turtles to their ponds. Turtles are quiet, attractive, popular with children, and they eat lots of mosquitoes and other pesky insects.
There are a number of ways you can help make your pond more attractive to turtles:
A Turtle-Friendly Pond
Turtles appreciate a pond with a gentle slope that allows them to easily climb in and out of the water, as well as providing both shallow basking areas and deeper swimming areas. If you have an existing pond with steep edges, you can provide a log or platform lying partly in the water and partly on the banks in order to allow them access to the water.
Turtles also enjoy floating logs or other dark colored basking platforms in deeper water. They prefer dark colors because they are warmer. Ideally, these basking platforms should not touch the banks of the pond. Turtles prefer “island” platforms because there is less risk of being attacked by land-dwelling predators.
Turtles are omniovores and will appreciate a variety of aquatic plants in addition to animal prey such as insects and minnows. Whenever possible, choose aquatic plants native to your region, as these will be most popular with turtles and other native wildlife.
If you live in an area with cold winter temperatures, you will need to provide a hibernation spot. If your pond is deep enough that it never freezes all the way to the bottom, your turtles can overwinter in the pond itself. In late fall, sink tray of sand or dirt in the deepest part of your pond. The turtles will bury themselves in the tray for the winter.
Never allow a pond containing hibernating turtles to freeze over completely, or the turtles could suffocate. You can use a floating pond heater to keep a small hole in the ice to allow gases to escape.
If your pond is too shallow to provide a safe spot for overwintering, you can collect your turtles and hibernate them artificially in a cool garage or basement. This is a difficult and delicate procedure, so consult an expert before getting started. A good starting point is this hibernation guide.
Collecting turtles from the wild is illegal in many states. If you find a turtle on the road, it is best to move it gently to the side it appears to be heading for (or whichever side is safer and easier for you to move it to), rather than to take it home with you.
Consult your local Fish and Wildlife agency or a similar organization before bringing any turtles home with you.