Any tips for new box turtle?

godzilla90fan

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Hello, I recently found a beautiful box turtle on the road near my house. There used to be a creek here, but its long since dried up, so I have no idea where she came from. Her species is native to here (north carolina) and its legal to own up to 5 wild box turtles in NC, so we (my niece, nephew, and myself) decided to keep her rather than risk her death to the busy roads here.

We have had her 6 days, and so far we haven't seen her eat or drink. I have seen her sitting in her water dish twice, so she MIGHT be drinking when we aren't around. We have left various fruits and veggies in her crate, including carrots, cantaloupe, watermelon, lettuce, and banana. I have also tried feeding her red worms (haven't tried earthworms yet) and superworms (closely supervised and cut off heads) in a seperate crate. She looked at the red worms like she was about to snatch them up, but them would always stop before actually biting, and entirely ignored the superworms, instead just going straight to the corner of the feeding tub and sitting there.

Beyond that, she spends most of her time in her cardboard den, and/or buried underground, with either her entire head out, or just her nostrils. She seems to burrow a lot, and has an established nest (don't know if its considered a nest without eggs, and we don't know if she is pregnant or laid any, she did dig with her back legs), and is very lively when held, but seems very relaxed if shes around people and not being held, even somewhat enjoying a chin rub (extends her neck).

Thinking that maybe its just too cold for her (the room sits around 75 degrees or warmer) today I bought her a 100w UVB/UVA/heat lamp, and a 5.5 inch dome for it. We aren't leaving it on, because I noticed when I got home that while the dome says it supports up to 100 watts, the bulb itself says it needs an 8.5 inch dome. The small amount of time we used it, the dome got really hot, does anyone know if the 5.5 inch one is usable, or should I return it? Is 100 watts too hott? We currently have it hanging around the top of the tub, 8 or so inches away from the ground (unlike the picture) but its turned off.

Any advice would be much appreciated, we want her (named her Azula) to have everything she needs. We do believe she needs more room, but don't know how to combine two of these tanks together. We also plan to get her a better soaking dish. Thank you in advance guys :)
 

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Toddrickfl1

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Honestly it would be best to release it close to where you found it. That turtle has been living very close to where you found it for several years now because it's not young. It will be very hard to get it to adjust to captivity. It might not ever eat. If you could set it up in a good sized outdoor pen it might be possible. If you've got your heart set on one though you could always get a captive born hatchling.That would be much easier and you could set it up in something smaller like you've got.
 

godzilla90fan

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Honestly it would be best to release it close to where you found it. That turtle has been living very close to where you found it for several years now because it's not young. It will be very hard to get it to adjust to captivity. It might not ever eat. If you could set it up in a good sized outdoor pen it might be possible. If you've got your heart set on one though you could always get a captive born hatchling.That would be much easier and you could set it up in something smaller like you've got.
We honestly think she is a release, because the only water near here has been dried up for years due to expansion, unless shes just been finding water here and there. She is also pretty friendly, but that may just be her species. She doesn't hide from us at all, and doesnt run or squirm (but doesnt seem to like to be held in the air at all, but does like her neck rubbed, and extends her neck when we do).

If she keeps up not eating, I may try to find a creek nearby, but I don't know if moving her to a different area is any better.

She was also that clean when I got her, also making me think she may be a release.

To compare her size to her pen, she is about 1/4 the size of the box (which she sleeps in)
 
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Toddrickfl1

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They don't need to live near water actually, they're pretty terrestrial. If you do release it, do it very close to where you found it, don't relocate it. She is also a He. In the mean time your best shot at getting him to eat would be worms, crickets, anything that squirms.
 

godzilla90fan

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They don't need to live near water actually, they're pretty terrestrial. If you do release it, do it very close to where you found it, don't relocate it. She is also a He. In the mean time your best shot at getting him to eat would be worms, crickets, anything that squirms.
Thank you for the information. Any idea if that level of friendliness if normal for a wild turtle? He acts pretty used to humans.

Edit: The local pet store has a Russian Tortoise, I've considered it as a replacement in case we need to release this one. Considering its a baby one, would the enclosure be suitable should it come to that?
 

Toddrickfl1

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Thank you for the information. Any idea if that level of friendliness if normal for a wild turtle? He acts pretty used to humans.
Not usually no, usually they close up and want nothing to do with people. Not all of them have the same personality or act the same though.
 

godzilla90fan

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Not usually no, usually they close up and want nothing to do with people. Not all of them have the same personality or act the same though.
Just an update, she is eating :) <3 She is eating canned box turtle food from petsmart, a congealed food with veggies in it. I think she was cold, putting the lamp on got her really active (im scared to leave the lamp on for now). I'm also thinking she got to drinking the last two nights, because her water/soaking dish has been empty the last two mornings. I'm hoping this is a good sign.

One last question, a safety one I can't find an answer to anywhere. My light fixture is 5.5 inches, says it supports up to 100 watts, so I got the 100 watt UVA/UVB/heat bulb. As I get home I see that the bulb itself says to use in a 8.5 inch fixture, is this still safe? The bulb is pretty tight in there but it fits.
 

maggie3fan

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Or He* I guess I should get used to that lol, might need a name change.
So you took a "beautiful" turtle out of the 'wild' where HE obviously has been living for quite a while and doing a fairly good job at it. You, evidently, intend on keeping him regardless of the advice you receive here. Box turtles are territorial, he probably has been living in that area for a while, he could be drinking from hose run off, or someone's decorative pond. Right now he thinks he's in jail, he is stressed out and confused, predators are holding him and looking at him. Please release him. Think about this...if every family took just 1 box turtle out of the wild, in a few years they will be none in the wild. You are going to try and replicate Mother Nature and you can't. It is cruel to take a wild animal and expect it to be happen in a crate. Or a small yard?
 

godzilla90fan

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So you took a "beautiful" turtle out of the 'wild' where HE obviously has been living for quite a while and doing a fairly good job at it. You, evidently, intend on keeping him regardless of the advice you receive here. Box turtles are territorial, he probably has been living in that area for a while, he could be drinking from hose run off, or someone's decorative pond. Right now he thinks he's in jail, he is stressed out and confused, predators are holding him and looking at him. Please release him. Think about this...if every family took just 1 box turtle out of the wild, in a few years they will be none in the wild. You are going to try and replicate Mother Nature and you can't. It is cruel to take a wild animal and expect it to be happen in a crate. Or a small yard?
I wish you didn't have such a confrontational tone, if you'd read my posts, you'd see I believe he is a pet. From day 1 he didn't hide in his shell from us, he let us massage his neck and extended his neck every time we did so (in a way I see many pet turtles do online), and haven't gotten him to eat live prey, only store bought food. He had a perfectly clean, shiny shell when I found him, so much so that cleaning him showed no noticeable differences. And to top it off, I've lived in this spot for 30 years and NEVER seen a wild turtle.
All these factors together make me think he isn't wild, because if he is, he is exceptionally tame. The only reason I'm hesitant to say he is a pet, is that he dislikes being held, but doesn't mind being on or near people, and it's very rare for him to pull his head in.

If I felt it is most likely a wild animal, it would be different. But I've just never seen a wild animal that trusts humans. We're taking him to the vet Monday for a checkup and recommendation on keeping him or not, or see if there's a missing one.

I fully understand I can just go buy a turtle, they're fairly cheap here, that's far from the reason I hesitate to release him. It would be far easier to just get a young one at one of the local pet shops, and should he prove to be unaclimated to pet life, we'll release him and do just that.
I'd just feel God awful to unknowingly release a pet turtle
 

Toddrickfl1

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I wish you didn't have such a confrontational tone, if you'd read my posts, you'd see I believe he is a pet. From day 1 he didn't hide in his shell from us, he let us massage his neck and extended his neck every time we did so (in a way I see many pet turtles do online), and haven't gotten him to eat live prey, only store bought food. He had a perfectly clean, shiny shell when I found him, so much so that cleaning him showed no noticeable differences. And to top it off, I've lived in this spot for 30 years and NEVER seen a wild turtle.
All these factors together make me think he isn't wild, because if he is, he is exceptionally tame. The only reason I'm hesitant to say he is a pet, is that he dislikes being held, but doesn't mind being on or near people, and it's very rare for him to pull his head in.

If I felt it is most likely a wild animal, it would be different. But I've just never seen a wild animal that trusts humans. We're taking him to the vet Monday for a checkup and recommendation on keeping him or not, or see if there's a missing one.

I fully understand I can just go buy a turtle, they're fairly cheap here, that's far from the reason I hesitate to release him. It would be far easier to just get a young one at one of the local pet shops, and should he prove to be unaclimated to pet life, we'll release him and do just that.
I'd just feel God awful to unknowingly release a pet turtle
Do not let the Vet give it any vitamin shots or anything it will do more harm than good. In fact there is really no reason for a Vet visit.
 

maggie3fan

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I was not being confrontational, I "quoted" your own words. I simply gave my personal opinion, if you don't like it, tough. You are taking a "beautiful" animal out of the wild and putting him in an aquarium. That goes against my experience. I have been involved in turtle and tortoise rescue for almost 20 years, my sister for longer than that. In my world what you are doing is very wrong.
 

godzilla90fan

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I was not being confrontational, I "quoted" your own words. I simply gave my personal opinion, if you don't like it, tough. You are taking a "beautiful" animal out of the wild and putting him in an aquarium. That goes against my experience. I have been involved in turtle and tortoise rescue for almost 20 years, my sister for longer than that. In my world what you are doing is very wrong.
You did so while ignoring my concerns, which was how tame he is for a wild animal. And yes, I'd say you were. You quoted beautiful to insinuate that's the only reason I picked him up, nevermind that I stated he was on a road in a busy area, and took to us right away. If I pit him back where I found him, he'd be dead in 20 minutes. I'd have to guess where he came from near here, which I'm more than willing to do if he proves to be wild.

You ignored my points about what he does and doesn't eat, that he let's me massage his chin, that he doesn't retreat into his shell when he sees people, and more. IF he is a pet, he would have no clue how to survive in the wild.
People release pets here all the time, a turtle is a first but we've had anything from dogs to crocodiles let loose here, it's a busy road with no clear view for a good while, so people just do it
 

Yvonne G

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Just an update, she is eating :) <3 She is eating canned box turtle food from petsmart, a congealed food with veggies in it. I think she was cold, putting the lamp on got her really active (im scared to leave the lamp on for now). I'm also thinking she got to drinking the last two nights, because her water/soaking dish has been empty the last two mornings. I'm hoping this is a good sign.

One last question, a safety one I can't find an answer to anywhere. My light fixture is 5.5 inches, says it supports up to 100 watts, so I got the 100 watt UVA/UVB/heat bulb. As I get home I see that the bulb itself says to use in a 8.5 inch fixture, is this still safe? The bulb is pretty tight in there but it fits.
No! Do not put that bulb in your small fixture. The small fixture won't allow heat to dissipate and the fixture will get dangerously hot!
 

Eric Phillips

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Hello…I understand your concerns on why you felt the need to keep a wild box turtle but if I kidnapped you and put you in 2’x4’ glass only closet, how do you think you would feel? If your going to provide a safe haven home then you better be prepared to provide all the necessities a box turtle needs or else you are no different than the “road”. I’m not trying to be mean but your enclosure doesn’t validate your emotional reasoning. To maintain these awesome creatures takes a lot of education, time, money, and space. An average adult box turtle needs at minimum of 4ft x 4ft enclosure. I realize you’re just starting out but if I was to rank your enclosure for this turtle, I would be tough to give it a 1 out of 10. If your committed to investing in a much larger space, in your education of this turtle, in the needs and care, in the financial support, in the proper diet…then I would gladly help you. Otherwise, take the turtle back in proximity to where you found it and place it in a safe location away from the road. If you have space outdoors, build a large predator proof enclosure…it will do better outdoors than indoors;) I hope you have the means to provide a proper home or at least make the best decision for it…not yourself. Best of luck!
 

jeff kushner

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I was going to refrain from this conversation but.....

Pay attention to Yvonne....you will cook that guy with that bulb.....at least keep is 2 ft away from any opening in his habitat to start with....he isn't going to die from ambient temps but f you allow the 450F heat from that bulb to get trapped you will be an unwitting accomplice in his demise.

And don't get defensive......I try to warn folks to wear their thick skin here......and trust me when I tell you that despite that perception of confrontation(occasionally deserved I'm sure<LOL>), the folks here are two things, wicked-smart about turtles and just as passionate and sometimes that can come across as harsh, it's NEVER intended that way, okay? Wrap your head around that little morsel, be humble and read the stickies/care sheets. I promise you will learn things. I learned & heck, I stopped learning decades ago.....a bunch of them!

Good luck
jeff
 

Cathie G

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Hello. There is a lady here on TFO that gave me some good advice about feeding named pastel tortie I think. The truth about tortoises and box turtles though is you can't tell if they are wild by how tame they seem to be. They're kinda naturally tame. On the other hand he was near a busy road and you don't see others around. It's a big decision. Good luck with whatever you come up with. Is your yard near the spot where he was found?
 

ZenHerper

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...The truth about tortoises and box turtles though is you can't tell if they are wild by how tame they seem to be. ...
True. Eastern Box Turtles in particular are very easy-going. This time of year, when it is quite hot, males in particular can seem quite gregarious. Behavior is not a reliable indicator of captive-bred status (I've know CB animals that are seriously disinterested in being handled and stay closed up tighter-than-tight, and wild turtles who couldn't care less -- they just want to be put down so they can jet off into underbrush.)

Box turtles burrow naturally to hide/escape predators, and to cool off when temperatures at the surface are too hot. In captivity, BTs burrow to hide/escape people, and to escape lighting and heating elements that are too intense.

This species needs wide temperature and humidity gradients, and a lot of space to walk.

A bulb rated for an 8.5 ceramic lamp will start a fire in a smaller fixture.

An animal that is otherwise healthy will eventually eat and drink, but this is not an indication of tameness, only an impulse to survive.

It can be a judgement call, but the fact is that animals being taken from the wild has resulted in species endangerment, extinction, and harsh laws/penalties as a last protective resort in many states. Just because one *may* do something is not the best reason to actually do it. If you seriously mean to keep this animal as a pet, it needs more space and safer equipment. Found animals deserve the same investment that bought ones receive.

You need a habitat that is around 8 x 4 feet, deeper substrate, thermometer and hygrometer probes, and proper lamps -- one for a supplemental basking spot, and a long tube-style uvb radiation set up.

Refer to the top "sticky" threads in the American Box Turtle sub-forum for more specific info and tips:
 

godzilla90fan

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No! Do not put that bulb in your small fixture. The small fixture won't allow heat to dissipate and the fixture will get dangerously hot!
hey, thanks for the advice. We experimented with hanging the bulb a foot and a half above the fixture, but decided to return the bulb. The pen maintains a solid 78 degrees even without a bulb (finally got a reptile thermometer) so im just going to get a really small UV bulb with no heat.
 
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