Box Turtle Outdoor Habitat

oldocb

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Magnolia, Texas
I have a large outdoor habitat containing sixty-three box turtles. All are three-toed box turtles with the exception of one wild-caught ornate box turtle. The area is approximately 10,000 square feet, part wooded and the remainder bermuda grass and ornamental grasses. There is a pond in the center of the grassy area with a filter and fountain. I installed a winding path to walk on composed of crushed granite. The turtles have been in the area for about six weeks and I am finding many have developed shallow to deep abrasions on the plastron, usually in the hinge region.

I am presuming the injuries are being caused by the trauma of crawling across the path. None of the turtles have anything resembling tooth penetrations, and the abrasions are almost always on the region of the plastron that is in closest contact with the ground.

The injured box turtles have been removed from the area and are being cared for indoors. We are removing all of the granite. I'm not not sure what to replace this with. I need to have a place to walk in order to monitor and care for my box turtles but not at their expense. I am considering large pieces of flagstone with some type of groundcover, but I'm fishing for suggestions. They were relocated from a much smaller 1200 sq ft backyard habitat that contained stepping stones but not rocks or gravel.
 

Yvonne G

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Why can't you just walk on the grass? That's what I do. You just have to be careful where you put your feet so you don't step on a small one. I have about 30 three toe in here:

Box turtle yard 09 13 a

But because of an overly wet winter, the ground is covered with grass that's about 2' tall.
 

dmmj

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Dirt and grass seem fine. That's alot of box turtles!
 

oldocb

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I do walk carefully on the grass, but the grass is 6-7 inches high and I am certainly not going to mow it. These turtles are quite good at hiding, partially submerged in dirt or mud. This is the Gulf Coast of Texas, so it's either 95 degrees and sunny or 95 degrees and rainy. I was wondering if anyone else has experienced anything similar with crushed granite or gravel scraping the plastrons.
 

oldocb

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Yes, I agree this is a lot of turtles. They were my Father's pets which I inherited 8 years ago. His 19 turtles have grown to 63 in that span (well actually three were donated by well-intentioned neighbors. He started with three back in the mid-seventies. Our oldest girl is conservatively in her mid to upper fifties.
 

ColleenT

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i got some 12 x 12 paver steps at lowes. Never had any problems with them.
fullpen2018_zpsrg2rhc8t.jpg
 

oldocb

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We have concrete pavers throughout the woods. The entire area is roughly 1/4 acre, so I need to have a safe path to walk through. First and foremost, this is an outdoor garden with a pond and flowers, as well as an herb garden. It just happens to be a turtle home as well. Friends and family come over and want to walk through and look at the turtles. There's a bench and a rock wall at one end. I clearly intended this to meet the needs of people and turtles alike. Clearly I never anticipated that this path would prove so dangerous to the turtles.
 

Yvonne G

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Maybe if you sink the pavers down into the ground further so they don't scrape their plastrons as they step up onto a paver.
 

dmmj

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To be honest I am suprised you are having this problem. Any chance something else is causing the problem. Do you know if it is male? Female? Mix of sexes?
 

oldocb

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I have removed all crushed granite and rock from the enclosure. I am going to sink the pavers so they’re flush with the surrounding soil. I’m also replacing the steel edging that borders the path with poly board edging. As for the path itself, I think I’ve decided to use flagstone steps surrounded by cypress mulch. I get the impression that most members have no objection to using cypress mulch.
Since I need about 3 cubic yards, things like cocoa coir and orchid bark would be cost prohibitive. The cocoa products can also be toxic to dogs.
 

oldocb

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I erred in my previous statement. Cocoa mulch contains caffeine and other methylxanthines that are toxic. Coconut products such as coir are safe, but I have found in the past that hatchlings tend to eat it and it can be an eye irritant.
 

DancesWithDinosaurs

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You
I have a large outdoor habitat containing sixty-three box turtles. All are three-toed box turtles with the exception of one wild-caught ornate box turtle. The area is approximately 10,000 square feet, part wooded and the remainder bermuda grass and ornamental grasses. There is a pond in the center of the grassy area with a filter and fountain. I installed a winding path to walk on composed of crushed granite. The turtles have been in the area for about six weeks and I am finding many have developed shallow to deep abrasions on the plastron, usually in the hinge region.

I am presuming the injuries are being caused by the trauma of crawling across the path. None of the turtles have anything resembling tooth penetrations, and the abrasions are almost always on the region of the plastron that is in closest contact with the ground.

The injured box turtles have been removed from the area and are being cared for indoors. We are removing all of the granite. I'm not not sure what to replace this with. I need to have a place to walk in order to monitor and care for my box turtles but not at their expense. I am considering large pieces of flagstone with some type of groundcover, but I'm fishing for suggestions. They were relocated from a much smaller 1200 sq ft backyard habitat that contained stepping stones but not rocks or gravel.
You were wise to remove the decomposed granite!!! If eaten it will cause impaction & death. Llamas & horse's can get sick & die if fed where there is DG & they consume any DG. Also never use any dyed tank gravel nor white landscaping rock. The pretty white rock's that almost have a sparkle to them. They are toxic when eaten & may also cause toxicity, impaction & death. Sadly turtle's are attracted to biting off bits or swallowing entire piece's of tank gravel & landscape gravel/rock. In tanks, pond's & habitat's, you want only smooth pebbles & softly edged rocks, large enough to never be eaten by turtle's & tortoises. Concrete pavers are still rough to a turtle or torts body. If used you'd need to bury them enough so the turtle's never drag across the edges. Slate is slippery as hell when wet. Always feel the edges of anything you place in your habitat. Avoid rough or sharp edges. You might consider sealing concrete pavers with a non toxic pond sealer. This might put a smooth coating on the concrete. There is also a roll on textured rubber like product that's sold to coat wooden floors in horse & livestock trailer's, plus used in boat's, warehouse steps, docks & all sorts of uses. I plan to use it after we replace the wood flooring in our 4 horse trailer. The product name skips my mind but it should be easy to find. There are brick's that are quite smooth. I bought some pallets of fire brick's & some half rounded brick's. We plan to make a wishing well out of the half rounded brick's & possibly a covered fire pit (for burning certain plant's that keep mosquitoes away.) These brick's are quite smooth & may be an option for you to lay in pattern's for a walkway or to form stepping stone's. Again, sink them down to bury the edges. I've seen stepping stone's made of sliced logs. They take year's to decay. Just be sure to use safe logs from tree wood that won't pose a health risk to your habitat animal's & turtle's. You can cut slabs from logs as thick as you'd like. Then set them partially below ground level. You can seal the side's & base. Sand down any rough edges & it's a free or nearly free option. As there are many felled tree's from storm & wind event's. Another option is to tell visitors to bring rubber boots or rubber clogs with them, to wear during wet times. This will save you all the work, upkeep & expense of buying, sawing & installing anything. You can also have a load of soil delivered. Put in wood bender board & a layer of smooth river rock then cover with soil to make a raised path. On the path plant hardy herbs or grass that can take occasional stepping on by you & visitors. Add soil on to form a gentle slope from the ground up to the bender board. So the turtle's don't tip or struggle with the bender board.
Installing a french drain in one area, to keep a zone dry is another option. Clogs & boots is a great option that costs you nothing.. Don't use exterior wood that's chemically impregnated because those chemicals will leech into the soil & water when in contact with the ground. Never use old railroad ties for this reason. You are so awesome to keep your dad's dream alive. I hope you have multiple strands of hotwire on your perimeter or a predator attack is likely inevitable. Wooden bridges are another option & add charm to a habitat. I wish you the very best & I'm excited to hear what you end up doing in your habitat.:)
 

oldocb

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Location (City and/or State)
Magnolia, Texas
I’m going to try burying the concrete pavers so the edges are submerged. With nearly two hundred of them I don’t have the energy to uproot them, clean, seal, and then replace again. If that fails, the log steps might be an option. I appreciate all of the suggestions. Some just may not be possible because of the size of the area involved and the advancing age of the caretakers. Since removing the granite, I haven’t found any new injured turtles, although it’s only been two days.
 

Yvonne G

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I have removed all crushed granite and rock from the enclosure. I am going to sink the pavers so they’re flush with the surrounding soil. I’m also replacing the steel edging that borders the path with poly board edging. As for the path itself, I think I’ve decided to use flagstone steps surrounded by cypress mulch. I get the impression that most members have no objection to using cypress mulch.
Since I need about 3 cubic yards, things like cocoa coir and orchid bark would be cost prohibitive. The cocoa products can also be toxic to dogs.
"coco coir" isn't made from the cocoa trees. the "coco" part is because it comes from coconut husks.
 

Yvonne G

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Oops! I should read all the posts before I stick my nose in, sorry.
 

MPappagallo

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Jun 8, 2019
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Myrtle Beach, SC
I’m going to try burying the concrete pavers so the edges are submerged. With nearly two hundred of them I don’t have the energy to uproot them, clean, seal, and then replace again. If that fails, the log steps might be an option. I appreciate all of the suggestions. Some just may not be possible because of the size of the area involved and the advancing age of the caretakers. Since removing the granite, I haven’t found any new injured turtles, although it’s only been two days.
If the concrete pavers don't work out, one other suggestion would be to take granite countertop remnanst and turn them upside down and use them like pavers. Most granite shops will give them to you for next to nothing, and the under side of granite is smooth, but has a matte finish that isn't slippery. They may be odd shapes and sizes, but shoudl work pretty well for what you are talking about. Hopefully the pavers you already got will work out....sounds like you have a great habitat for your turtles! I bet they are happy little guys.
 

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