Eastern Box Turtle

By Dawn



Terrapene Carolina Carolina


Upto  4" - 6"


Eastern box turtles are mostly omnivores as adults. Meaning they will eat both plant and animal matter.  Hatchling and young box turtle are generally carnivorous, meaning they eat mostly live foods. 


Daytime Air Temperature:  75-85°

Basking Temperature:  85-90°

Humidity:  60 - 80%


Wild Eastern box turtles are found mostly near the edge of forests. They can frequently be found along the edge of open meadows under shrubs or fallen logs. Moist leaf litter is a natural resting place. They are often seen soaking in shallow water.  


Eastern box turtles range is typically from Michigan south to Tennessee, east to Georgia and north to Main.   




A captive habitat should have a substrate deep enough for the turtle to burrow in, water bowl large enough for the turtle to climb in and out of easily and turn around in. Hiding places at both ends of the enclosure to allow for thermoregulation. UVB lighting or access to natural sunlight is a must. Artificial heat must also be provided for a healthy, happy turtle.       


An outdoor enclosure is best for Eastern box turtles. Minimal size for one adult is 4 feet by 4 feet. Ideally it should receive morning sun and late afternoon sun when they are most active. Planting shrubs and plants should provide shaded areas. Hiding places are required. Hollowed out logs, plant pots turned on their sides or other materials can be used. Large water bowls can be created out of plant saucers. Misting the enclosure will boost the humidity. Turtles are excellent escape artists. You must dig down 6 inches below the bottom of the enclosure walls and provide a barrier. Chicken wire or bricks can be used to accomplish this. A screen top is essential to keep out predators. Raccoons, skunks, hawks, opossums, dogs, cats and kids are all potential dangers to turtles
Indoor enclosures are sometimes needed for turtles. Sick, very young, climate and the location your in can all play a part of having to keep one indoors. Minimal size of the enclosure should be 36 inches long and 12 inches wide for one box turtle. Remember, bigger is always better. Glass tanks are not recommended since the turtle can see out and will want out. You can cover the sided of the tank with paper to prevent your turtle from stressing itself by wall climbing. Your turtle will also need artificial lighting. You must have a UVB lighting source to promote healthy growth and provide the essential vitamins for calcium absorption. Reptisun 5.0 lights are recommended. For heating the enclosure you have two options. You can buy a ceramic heat emitter that will last for years or use a heat bulb as a basking place. Turtles cannot regulate their own body temperature so you will need to provide a gradient. One side of the enclosure needs to be warmer then the other to allow the turtle to chose for itself how warm it wants to be. A turtle without proper heat cannot digest its food properly and will become sickly. Substrate should be a minimum of 3 inches deep. Box turtle burrow in substrate to feel safe. You can use moistened Bed a Beast mixed with peat moss without perlite. Some people use regular dirt or just potting soil. Try them and see what works best for your turtle and you.   You need to substrate to stay moist but not wet to help provide humidity. Lack of humidity will cause repertory and eye problems. A large water bowl needs to be provided. This will need cleaned a minimum of once daily. Box turtles frequently defecate in their water. Lastly, hiding places. You can buy hollowed out logs, make caves from rocks or use fake plants to accomplish this. Whatever you use make sure it isn’t something that can fall and injure your turtle.            


Recommended diet is 60 % animal matter and 40% plant material.  Earth worms, red worms, wax worms, crickets, grass hoppers, slugs are good things to feed.  Safe plant matter for box turtles are grated carrots, grated squash, blackberries, blueberries, dandelion leaves, kale, pumpkin, strawberries, mulberries, tomato, zucchini, romaine lettuce, and endive. Vitamin supplements containing minerals and calcium are also recommended.


Eastern box turtles get along with other Eastern box turtles. Females will get along with other females. Adult males with other males will tend to fight and stress the weaker turtle. Battles can even become bloody and result in serous injury. Two females or more with one male is optimal. Males will direct all their attention one female if she is the only one around. This can cause the female to become stressed and go off her food and become sick. Box turtles do not need a friend to be happy. One box turtle alone will be fine. 


Eastern box turtles are one of the most attractive of the box turtles. Once all their housing needs and a quality diet is offered they make great pets. Children are generally not recommended to interact with them though. Like all reptiles box turtles carry salmonella, there for, cleanliness is an important factor in keeping a turtle. Always wash your hands after touching your turtle or any of your turtle’s things. A curious child dropping it can also easily injure turtles. Turtles are more of a decorative pet, look but don’t touch. Many states have laws on reptiles. Make sure you can legally own a turtle before you get your heart set on one. Habitat destruction, pollution and over collecting from the wild are all affecting the future of the box turtle. When buying a box turtle try to buy a captive bred one. They will be healthier and more able to adapt to captive life. Finding a reptile vet for your turtle is also a good idea. Regular vets for cats and dogs just haven’t been educated about the specifics of turtle’s health. Find out where one is located near you before you need one, it just may save your turtle life. Lastly, remember box turtle are life long pets. Eastern box turtles can live 80 to 100 years. You cannot just let it go when you decide you no longer want it.