Box Turtle Care You Need to Know
Box turtles range in the wild throughout the United States and Britain, and make delightful pets. They do however, require proper care if they are to remain healthy and free from infections. The first advice critical to Box turtle care is to not capture a wild turtle, as not only will this cause them to go through an adjustment crisis, but takes from the already-depleted wild Box turtle population. It’s best not to even buy one from a Pet Store, as these are usually captured from the wild. Try to purchase your pet from a turtle breeder specializing in Box turtles.
Pet Box turtles commonly have eye and ear infections, and this is unnecessary and is the result of poor advice on turtle care. Pet owners often assume that these turtles are tropical or semi-tropical creatures, so subject them to overly-warm temperatures that this temperate species does not thrive in. They also assume that because certain kinds of Box turtles live in deserts, that they require dry environments. This in turn creates many of the swollen eyes and ear abscesses we see in pet Box turtles. (Even the desert species burrow underground in daytime and come out at night when dew makes the desert moist.)
Box turtles thrive in a moist environment and come alive in the rain, and many pet owners find it helpful to spray their turtles’ environment with water using a plant mist sprayer, twice a day. In fact, if your pet is not eating, it often helps them gain an appetite by spraying them or dousing them with water.
While it is possible to keep these turtles in a (large) indoor glass aquarium, it is best not to do so-as many individuals will want to escape through the glass. It is better to house them in a large Rubbermaid tub or a wooden enclosure if you keep them indoors. Most desirable of all, if you live within the temperate zone that is part of the turtle’s natural range, is to keep them outdoors in your back yard-and keep their habitat moist. This will prevent them from overheating and from drying out and contracting eye and ear infections in the first place.
Keep them in a wire-mesh fenced enclosure not only to protect them from dogs and wild creatures such as raccoons, but also to prevent them from escaping, as they love to burrow and are great escape artists. For this reason, it is advised to bury wire mesh in the soil at some depth. You will need to allow them some depth in part of their enclosure however, as they will burrow underground to hibernate in the winter. Another note: you may certainly keep a single Box turtle, but they enjoy the company of other members of their species.
They enjoy swimming (though they do so somewhat awkwardly), so a small pond is very beneficial. They will dirty it, however, so you will need to change the water from time to time. Also, make sure that at least one end of the pond has a gradual side to allow them an easy slope to exit the water. The water should be room temperature.
It is best to give Box turtles quite a varied diet, as not only does this ensure that in the long run they will get all their dietary requirements, but prevents them from settling into a monotonous and unhealthy diet. They enjoy lettuce, strawberries, mushrooms, turnip leaves, etc. sprinkled with slugs and earthworms. Don’t give them too much live food however, as otherwise they can become spoiled and picky eaters. If they are not eating try giving them a bit of cat food to stimulate their appetite. They will, however, occasionally go through times of not eating and this is no cause for real concern as long as they are in good health.
Todd is a Pet Turtle enthusiast. For more information on Box Turtle Care, visit