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Terrapene carolina (Linnaeus, 1758)
EASTERN BOX TURTLE
Florida Box Turtle; Gulf Coast Box Turtle; Three-Toed Box Turtle

Life   Vertebrata   Reptilia   Testudines   Emydidae   Terrapene

Terrapene carolina carolina, Box Turtles
© Copyright Sheryl Pollock 2011 · 9
Terrapene carolina carolina, Box Turtles

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Terrapene carolina, Box Turtle
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Terrapene carolina
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Terrapene carolina, eastern box turtle
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Terrapene carolina, eastern box turtle
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North American Box Turtles

By Joe Heinen DC

T. c. major
The Gulf Coast Box Turtle

 

T. c. major, The Gulf Coast Box Turtle
3 Year Old Gulf Coast Box Turtle

This is a larger species. It is elongated and the carapace is keeled. The marginal scutes are flared. The carapace is dark brown to black with dull scattered spots or radiating lines. The plastron is deep brown to jet black...with or without patterns. Males can have white patches on the head and in some cases the head may be almost white.

 

Housing:

Care in captivity should mimic its natural habitat as much as possible.

Ideally they should be kept in large outdoor pens . The pen should be located where it can receive some direct sunlight early in the day and dappled light the rest of the day The substrate should be leaf litter. In my pen, 1/3 is covered with at least 6" of composted hay. This provides an abundance of grubs, worms, slugs, millipedes and other food. The rest of the pen is covered with about an inch of leaf litter. Outdoor pens can be planted with shade loving plants such as ferns and Hostas.

Also, they need a water source for soaking and drinking. I use large glazed ceramic flower pot bottoms partially sunk into the substrate.

Indoor pens also should be as large as space will allow. For the most part aquariums are unsuitable.  A minimum sized pen can be made from a 50 gallon Rubbermaid storage container .

Although very functional, a storage container isn't very attractive. With a little imagination (and some carpentry skills), very attractive pens can be made. To the right is an excellent example by Ellen Friedman.

Ellen Friedman

When kept indoors, it is crucial that a UVB-emitting reptile bulb be used. I prefer the UVHeat type bulb. Eastern Box Turtles like to soak often and should have an adequately large water dish that they can easily get in and out of. When kept indoors I usually soak them once a week in a large dishpan with a couple inches of lukewarm water. They tend to defecate in the water dish so these need to be cleaned daily. Humidity is a major issue. Most box turtles are kept far to dry. This leads to eye problems which are often mistaken for eye infections and/or respiratory infections. To keep the humidity high I use sphagnum moss/Bed-a-Beast/sand mix. This is kept moist with daily misting. They should have hiding spots and an area for burrowing available. Eastern Box Turtles should have a basking area that is maintained at 87-90°F., and a cooler, shaded area.


Diet:

60% or more of the diet is composed of animal matter. Some of the "animal" matter they eat in the wild includes: slugs, snails, worms, grubs, caterpillars, beetles, pill bugs, sow bugs, centipedes, crickets, grasshoppers, spiders, flies, crawfish and carrion. Essentially, if they can catch it, they will eat it.

The rest is plant matter. A large part of which is fungi (mushrooms etc). Moss, berries and grass are also eaten.

More information can be found at http://aboxturtle.com/box_turtle_diet.htm

 

 

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Copyright © 2000-2015 Joe Heinen DC All Rights Reserved.

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Three-toed box turtle:
Terrapene carolina triunguis

Box turtles are typically rather shy animals which do not 'tame' easily. They are also very sensitive indeed to incorrect environments, and do particularly badly if kept in 'fishtank' type vivaria. They do much better when kept in well shaded, heavily planted  outdoor pens with a damp moss and leaf-litter substrate, and constant access to a shallow bathing pond. Major problems quickly develop if they are overheated or allowed to become too dry. Box turtles MUST have access to humid substrates and micro-climates in eye, nose and ear infections are to be avoided: in the wild, they spend a lot of time buried in damp earth, and even mud. If kept in a dry vivarium tank they will suffer severe, and possibly fatal, dehydration very rapidly indeed. If they must be maintained indoors, it is vital that they are sprayed and soaked on a daily basis. They do not like bright light, and hot basking lamps cause more problems with box turtles than they cure. a gentle, all-round background heat is preferable. Do remember that this is a temperate species, not a tropical species: box turtles need cooler days just as much as they need warm days. Their favorite weather is warm and overcast - just before a storm. In fact, peak activity is often observed during, or just after a heavy summer rainfall. Unfortunately, thousands of box turtles are still collected annually to supply the demands of the pet trade. Most of these turtles - which live for decades in the wild - will die within 12 months of capture. The Tortoise Trust is strongly opposed to the box turtle trade, which is unsustainable and involves very substantial cruelty. Rescued turtles are often in a bad way, with ear abscesses and eye infections commonplace. Parasitic diseases are also routine in wild-caught box turtles. The Tortoise Trust has a free video on the Rescue and Rehabilitation of American Box Turtles (available to registered wildlife rehabilitators) and we also have several useful articles in our on-line file library.

  • From  North America
  • Can hibernate if healthy under appropriate conditions
  • Omnivorous, with moderate live food requirement
  • Extremely sensitive to incorrect environments
  • Requires high humidity substrate for burrowing
  • Not suitable for vivarium tanks
  • Regular soaking or constant access to water recommended

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Updated: 2017-12-16 15:36:53 gmt
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