Box Turtles

Voice Card  -  Volume 21  -  Drury Card Number 17  -  Wed, Aug 21, 1991 8:29 PM

This is a card on EVERYTHING you ever wanted to know about Box Turtles. It looks GREAT as a Pagemaker document (mucho thanks to Yumi).

Box Turtle Genus Terrapene


The turtle is an ancient animal, thought to have originated fifty million years ago (long before man). The box turtles are easily identified by their terrestrial (land dwelling) habitat and the well-developed hinge in the plastron (bottom shell). They are found in the wild in Mexico and the United States. There are four species and a variety of races, living mainly in woodlands and prairies depending on the species. The Eastern or Common Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina ) and the Three-Toed Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina triunguis ) are the most commonly kept pets.

Turtle Facts

Life Span - 40 to 123 plus years.

Sexual Maturity - About 5 to 9 years of age.

Sexual Differences - Males tend to have redder eyes and a concave plastron. The female has browner eyes and a flat plastron.

Reproduction - Mating occurs after hibernation. 2 to 7 eggs are laid in June and July. Females can store sperm for long periods of time (in one case, 4 years) before laying eggs. Incubation ranges from 45 -90 days depending on the temperature. Hatchlings do not have a functional hinge.

Temperature - The optimum is 82*F with a range of 50*F to 96*F. Remember, box turtles are poikilothermic (unable to regulate their body temperature) like other reptiles.

Habits - They like to dig and burrow. Tend to be shy when eating. Box turtles are poor swimmers but enjoy soaking in shallow water.


Adults - Omnivorous (eats both plant and animal matter). Offer earthworms, snails, slugs, crickets, waxworms, mealworms, trout chow, turtle pellets, dog food, strawberries, bananas, pears, peaches, papayas, yams, blackberries, melon, shredded carrots, squash, broccoli, and thawed frozen mixed vegetables. It is important to feed a variety of foods and sprinkle the food with a good quality vitamin and mineral supplement.

Hatchlings - Same as the adult diet but finely chopped. Can feed strained baby foods. Avoid Iceburg lettuce and celery as these contain mostly water and provide little nutrition. Feed your box turtle daily and always have water available for drinking and soaking.


Adults can be housed outdoors in a well-fenced, grass-covered yard. The yard should also have shrubs to provide shade and privacy. Box turtles are excellent climbers and diggers. Prevent dogs from having access to your turtle. Dogs may chew and/or bury the turtle. Do not use insect sprays or snail poison in your turtle yard. Indoor enclosures should provide enough room for the turtle to explore (minimum 4 sq. ft.). In the wild, box turtles have an average home range of 13 acres! The enclosure needs to be equiped with a Vita-liteŠ to provide full spectrum lighting. The lining can be newspapers, astroturf, or indoor/outdoor carpeting. Do not use sand, gravel, or corn cobs. These substrates can cause problems if eaten. It is important to provide a shelter or "hide box" for your turtle. Keep young box turtles indoors for the first 2 to 3 years of life.


As a general rule, hatchlings should not be allowed to hibernate for the first couple of years of life. NEVER allow a sick, injured, or new turtle to hibernate. Hibernation results in a general decrease in overall disease resistance of the turtle. To prevent hibernation, keep your turtle 5-10*F warmer than its summer temperature. For healthy adults, prepare for hibernation when the turtle becomes sluggish and has a decrease in appetite. Place them in a dark, cool room (around 50*F), in a box covered with pesticide-free clean leaves or crumpled newspapers. Protect your turtle from flies, ants, dogs, cats, rats, skunks, and opossums. It is important to check them periodically and offer small amounts of water. In California, hibernation lasts from October-November to March or April.

Signs of Illness

Lumps and bumps, nasal discharge, lack of appetite and lethargy outside of hibernation, sores, shell changes such as cracks or pits, swollen eyes, overgrown beak, weight loss, change in droppings, swollen neck or ears, and a change in normal routine. A thorough physical exam and laboratory work-up (blood, fecal exam, radiographs, bacteriology test, etc.) can be performed to diagnose and start treatments on your turtle.

Further Information

Reptile & Amphibian Magazine
Dept. C
R.D. 3, Box 3709
Pottsville, PA 17901

American Federation of Herpetoculturists
P.O. Box 1131
Lakeside, CA 92040
(A.F.H. Publication: The Vivarium )

Arizona Herpetological Association
1433 W. Huntington Dr.
Tempe, AZ 85282

California Turtle and Tortoise Club
Foothill Chapter
P.O. Box 194
Montrose, CA 91020
(There are several other chapters. Write for more information)

Chicago Herpetological Society
2001 North Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614

San Diego Turtle & Tortoise Society
13963 Lyons Valley Rd.
Jamul, CA 91935-9607
(Excellent care sheets available)

T.E.A.M. (Tortoise Education and Adoption Media)
3245 Military Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(An excellent scientific newsletter for the layman)