Box Turtles come in many varieties. Those most commonly available and best suited to keeping as pets are Common Eastern box turtles and Gulf Coast box turtles. They are inquisitive, bold and personable pets when kept in the correct environment. Box turtles can live 50-60 years if they receive proper care.
[ ] Large terrarium, or materials to build enclosure.
[ ] UVB light (for indoor turtles)
[ ] White Heat Light
[ ] Undertank heating pad (for indoor turtles)
[ ] Thermometer (for indoor turtles).
[ ] Reptile bark substrate, terrarium moss.
[ ] Hiding box or half log.
[ ] Rocks and logs.
[ ] Non toxic plants. Herbs and vegetables are good.
[ ] Shallow water dish, large enough for wading/swimming.
[ ] Food plate.
[ ] Calcium supplement with vitamin D3 added.
[ ] Extra tank or container for use as hospital/quarantine tank.
[ ] Water spray bottle.
[ ] Insulated hibernation box.
If you are unable to keep your turtle for some reason, never release it into the wild, where it will be unlikely to survive. Instead, bring it back here or seek out a rescue organization to help you place your turtle in a new home.
Box turtles do best in an outdoor set-up, or a large indoor container with opaque sides to prevent it trying to dig out. A turtle permanently housed in a small glass tank indoors will become stressed and withdrawn. Indoor box turtles must have a UVB light to keep healthy, and a heat light creating a day-time basking spot of at least 85-90 degrees. Where the climate is suitable, you can make an outdoor enclosure from wooden boards, vinyl siding, bricks or cement blocks. Situate your turtle habitat where it is partly shaded, morning sun is ideal. A 5 foot X 5 foot enclosure is adequate for up to four turtles. Do not mix different species of turtles and remember to quarantine any new turtles before introducing them to the group. A group of females is likely to work out best. Provide a box for each turtle to hide in, as well as such items as logs and rocks to make the environment interesting. Make sure your outdoor turtles are well protected from dogs or other predators, like raccoons or hawks. Most box turtles enjoy a shallow pool, 6-8 inches deep and will spend time soaking regularly. When planting the pen, keep in mind the turtles natural habitat and avoid toxic plants. Humidity should be kept high, turtles enjoy being sprayed with water in hot weather and indoor turtles should be soaked or misted daily.
Protein such as earthworms, slugs, sowbugs, caterpillars, boiled chopped chicken or fish should make up 50% of the daily diet. You can gather clean, pesticide free grass for your turtle and offer a variety of vegetables and fruit daily. A calcium supplement with vitamin D3 can be sprinkled over food. To avoid problems with ants remove all uneaten food after one hour. Clean, fresh water should always be available, preferably in a shallow water dish, sunk into the ground.
From time to time turn over the topsoil and add some fresh soil. Move the hiding boxes around so they are on clean ground. Scrub out the water dish every few days and wash the food dish daily.
Determining the sex of a box turtle depends on observing secondary characteristics, such as coloration. This varies according to the type of turtle and is best done by an experienced person.
Locate an exotics veterinarian experienced in treating turtles. Watch for sign of illness such as, shell irregularities, breathing problems, swollen closed eyes, loss of appetite, or weight loss. It’s a good idea to weigh your turtle weekly. Sick turtles and hatchlings need to be kept indoors in a tank, with a temperature range from 85-87° F in the warmest area, to around 75-78°in the coolest area. An undertank heating pad works well. Place a hiding box in the coolest area.
Only healthy, adult turtles should be allowed to hibernate. Sick, young or underweight turtles should be kept indoors for the winter. Prepare a place for your turtle to hibernate by digging to loosen the soil in the pen and mounding additional loose soil and leaves on top. Alternatively, prepare an insulated box and place it in a protected area at around 50° F. Check on the turtle weekly and offer a drink if it wakes.
Turtles may carry salmonella bacteria. Good hygiene is essential. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling your turtle and remind others to do so.
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