See the seasons change at the Garden! Advance tickets are strongly recommended.

Plants & Gardens Blog

Where Did the Turtles Go?

Visitors walking past the icy pond in the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden might notice that the painted turtles and red-eared sliders are not basking on the rocks as they do in summer. Where do they hunker down for winter? Turtles actually hibernate deep in the mud at the very bottom of the pond, insulated by layers of ice, water, and muck.

When cold-blooded animals like turtles hibernate it’s called “brumation.” In winter, turtles no longer come to the water’s surface to breathe. Instead, they breathe underwater through specialized skin on their neck, legs, and tail. Baby painted turtles can even freeze solid for a few days and still survive! Though the turtles are hidden out of sight, you may be able to spot the koi even on the coldest days. They spend the winter in a similar, slowed-down state, sheltering in the warmer water under the ice.

Ashley Gamell is a freelance writer and consultant. After a decade on staff at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, she now pens her posts from the Hudson Valley.


  • Melissa April 18, 2016

    Today for the very first time I got to explore Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and I noticed the beautiful turtles. What type of turtle are they?

  • S. D. Rosenbaum January 22, 2014

    Whatever happened to the soft-shelled turtles that were taken away when the pond was renovated?

  • el January 14, 2014

    And sometimes herons come over from Prospect Park to snack on some koi!

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