What do turtles do in winter? It depends on the kind of turtle.
Box turtles will dig into the leaf litter and soil and hibernate. Actually, the correct term for this is brumate. When reptiles enter dormancy during cold weather, it’s called brumation. For other animals doing the same thing, it’s referred to as hibernation. Our Skiatook Journal Editor, Lindsey Chastain, informed me of the term. Even though I had observed and studied nature all my life, I had never heard the word. Lindsey is a former breeder of royal pythons (ball pythons) so she knew all about brumation since her reptiles would go into dormancy during the winter months.
Pond turtles, such our local red-eared sliders and cooters, don’t brumate but remain aware throughout the winter. Their metabolism slows down and they become inactive but remain alert to changes in light and temperature. On a sunny, warm day they become active and can be seen sunning themselves on logs and other items. I’ve seen red-eared sliders basking on a sunny, calm winter day when the temperature was 50 degrees.
Snapping turtles remain active throughout the winter, even when ice covers the pond. Photos show two red-eared sliders on a turtle ramp on Christmas Day 2019, a sunny day when the temperature reached 70 degrees in the Skiatook area.