to Keep Your Three-Toed Box Turtle
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We call them box turtles because their shells close up like a box when threatened.
the wild, box turtles go through some pretty harrowing experiences:
Lack of food
still these intriguing creatures manage to survive.
can’t say they escape due to their agility.
If you’ve ever watched one cross a road, you know they have no
agility. Considerate drivers
need to be the ones with agility.
also know that these guys are not the Einsteins of the reptile world.
Their road trips should convince you of their general cluelessness
during the spring breeding months.
did the box turtle cross the road? Peer
Every box turtle in that neck of the woods for untold generations
before him probably crossed that same stretch of land for the same reason
-- to breed.
ancestors’ wives in covered wagons probably said, “Watch it, honey.
Don’t run over that box turtle.
He’s so cute.” Probably
the buffalo learned to walk around them also.
Everyone likes box turtles. There’s
just something fascinating about a critter that’s learned to travel
around in its own retirement mobile home at such an early age.
few vacationers can drive past a box turtle on the road.
They can’t resist the temptation to take it home with them.
Of course, the people in the southern states where box turtles roam
freely consider them a worse pest than grasshoppers -- much like us and
our cottontail rabbits. In Oklahoma they call them “tamater-eatin’
Ornate box turtles grow wild in
Federal Law. Federal law requires all turtles we sell to be at least four inches end to end. That’s why you never see any little baby turtles these days (legally, that is). You can keep them at home, but we cannot sell them (legally).
Explanation. There really is a reason for this particular law. Turtles kept in dirty water can carry salmonella. Little kids put little turtles in their little mouths (in addition to sand, rocks, dirt, shoes, socks, chewed on dog toys, dogs, or anything else graspable). The feds pretty much put most turtle farms out of business. But salmonella continues unabated.
We do not recommend putting raw turtles in your mouth. We also recommend washing your hands after handling turtles or any other animal. Also, wipe your nose and don’t run with scissors. You can avoid many diseases by washing your hands frequently.
If three-toed box turtles were on the sickly side you would never see them.
The ones you buy are usually 10-15 years old.
They are very hardy critters to survive that many years outside in
the elements without earmuffs, scarves, or nine-buckle goulashes. Box
requirements are minimal:
critters go, they need next to nothing to survive.
Need UV Light.
In the wild, three-toed box turtles get plenty of sunlight.
Reptiles need sunlight to help them manufacture vitamin D3
which they use to assimilate calcium into their bones.
These very slow-growing creatures need very little to meet their
needs. If you feed them a
commercial turtle food or give them fruits and veggies plus an occasional reptile vitamin
supplement, you meet their needs easily.
A full-spectrum bulb or occasional sunning is also helpful.
Use sun light with caution. You can kill these guys if you leave
them in the hot sun. Provide some shade -- perhaps a cabaña?
A seems more critical to box turtles than to other reptiles.
Maybe that’s why they like muskmelons, sweet potatoes, and corn.
Anytime they get their “puffy eye syndrome,” you can usually
clear them right up with Vitamin A drops and heat.
Speaking of heat, three-toed box turtles gotta have it.
They will die without heat. In
the wild, they hibernate before their heat runs out.
Cool weather stresses them a great deal.
They’re not really tropical creatures, but they do need heat.
the summer, room temperature works fine.
As the season cools, three-toed box turtles need 80o to maintain
their appetites, metabolism, and health.
They don’t need it day and night, but that 80o during
the day makes all the difference in the world to them.
It will add decades to their lifespan.
your three-toed box turtle slows down or goes off his feed, warm him up.
If he acts a little puny, warm him up.
If his eyes get puffy, warm him up.
If he loses weight, warm him up.
To cure most turtle problems, warm him up to 90o until
the problem clears up.
Change their water daily. Turtles
take in quite a bit of water for their size.
They don’t sweat it out like we do, they use it to flush out
their digestive system. They
suck water in one end and empty their pipes out the other end.
a shallow bowl of warm water, the two processes occur almost
simultaneously. When Martha
soaks several new box turtles in our large sink, she has to keep flushing them
with new water. We don’t
want them drinking “used water.” These
daily “soaks” in their mini-hot tub really perk them up.
For soaking small quantities of three-toed box turtles, we like glass pie plates. Box turtles can get in and out easily and cannot tip them. Change their water after they access their toilette.
If you feed frozen, canned, or “natural foods,” three-toed box turtles get a lot of water from their food. Remember that when you feed commercial pelleted food, your turtle will not need to eat as much -- probably only 20-25% as much because it contains much less water.
You get your best mileage out of your three-toe when you let it run around
the house. They like wandering about -- probably looking for a
highway to cross. At night you might want to cage yours. Some
people do not want to hear a herd of three-toes clomp, clomp, clomping across
their hardwood bedroom floor at 3 am.
Commercial pelleted box turtle foods take the guesswork out of
feeding the little varmints. Each
pellet contains everything they need in the proper proportions.
It doesn’t spoil -- unless it gets wet.
It’s convenient. It’s
economical. Still, it’s
always fun to feed them fruits and vegetables because they love the darn
stuff. Three-toed box turtles have to eat quite a
bit of it to get the same nutrition.
some favorite fruits:
the vegetable category:
· Leaf lettuce -- especially romaine
(We know it ’s really a fruit)
(We know it
’s really a fruit)
you don’t mind slicing and dicing or grating, they’ll also eat “hard stuff”
(off or on the cob)
(off or on the cob)
(cooked or grated)
(cooked or grated)
We don’t recommend buying a whole watermelon or chicken for your box turtle. But if you’re eating one yourself, give your turtle a bite. How much? Few three-toed box turtles will eat more than one or two tablespoons of any food. That’s what makes the commercial pellets so convenient. You can feed them for less than a dollar a week.
turtles like occasional meat treats also.
In a solid-walled cage they can catch crickets.
Turtles are quicker than you may think.
They also enjoy low-fat meats like small bits of chicken.
At 98.6o we have no problem digesting animal fats.
Box turtles on the other hand can’t get animal fat into their
systems at their lower body temperature.
recommend feeding more than one type of food though.
A little change of pace has got to brighten their day.
Few turtles subscribe to cable.
Few turtles subscribe to cable.
occasional feeding of dry dog food won’t hurt.
They probably can’t digest the fat and they’ll get way too much
protein, but in the short run no prob. Soak it in water to make it
easier to eat.
food makes them smell funny.
like the semi-moist kind but over the long haul it could hurt them.
If yours eats some cat food every so often, no harm done.
foods are a perfect substitute. Nutritionally,
iguanas and three-toed box turtles have many of the same needs.
Look for the adult iguana foods, they contain less calcium (still
way more than box turtles need).
Remember, if your three-toed box turtle has a serious problem:
You probably need to see your vet. However, you can prevent most of these (except injuries) by keeping your turtle at 80o.
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