Florida Box Turtle

By Acutus

 

SCIENTIFIC NAME

Terrapene carolina bauri

ADULT SIZE

Upto  4" - 6.5"

DIET

Different types of invertebrates, insects and plant matter. This species of box turtle seems to be very carnivorous even as adults.

 

TEMPERATURE RANGE (F)

Daytime Air Temperature:  70 - 90

Basking Temperature:  85 - 95

Humidity:  70 - 90%

HABITAT

Forest, scrub areas, and marshes.

DISTRIBUTION

Florida and the Keys. May enter extreme southern Georgia.

BEGINNER TURTLE

No

CAPTIVE HABITAT

The best habitat is an outdoor one. A moist substrate deep enough for the turtles to burrow into and plenty of hide spots are a must, as is a large shallow water dish big enough for the turtles to climb into an out of easily. These turtles like to spend time just soaking in the water. So if you have more than one be sure the water area is large enough for multiple turtles.  A compost area of fallen leaves and grass clippings is a good spot to attract plenty of insects and other invertebrates for the turtles to forage on as well as provide places to hide.

These turtles also require high humidity. You will have to spray the enclosure once or twice a day or when necessary to keep at least an area of the enclosure nice and moist but not perpetually wet.

A secure enclosure is a must! Turtles must be protected from predators, including pet dogs, and theft!

RECOMMENDED ENCLOSURE

Outdoors:

As mentioned above an outdoor enclosure is highly recommended. First a suitable site must be chosen. The site should receive sun at least part of the day (preferably in the morning) but should also have areas that are shaded throughout the day.

 It must be a size suitable to the amount of turtles you are keeping. A 4 x 8 pen will house 3-4 adult turtles. Enclosures can be made from wood, cinder blocks, or any other building material. Fencing can also be used but it is a must that there be at least a 24 visual barrier so the turtles cannot see through. A turtle that can see the outside will constantly try to get out. The visual barrier also keeps the turtles from climbing the fencing. Which believe it or not is possible!

It is a good idea to incorporate an underground barrier as well. Box turtles dig and they can dig under the walls of your enclosure. The barrier can be accomplished many different ways.  Chicken wire buried 8-12 inches below the bottom edge of the enclosure is one way.  Another is to make the sides of the enclosure 8-12 inches taller and once the walls are in place fill the enclosure with 8-12 inches of substrate. This will make it so that the inside floor is actually 8-12 inches above ground level. A third way is to line the inside perimeter of the enclosure with bricks. The bricks are laid on their side and buried so they are flush with ground. Turtles almost always try to dig at corners or where the walls meet the ground. They will quickly learn they cant dig through the brick.

Once the enclosure walls are up and the digging barriers in place it is time to decorate! First the water area. Suitable water areas can be made from any shallow plastic pan. Things commonly used are plastic paint pans and cat litter boxes, but any shallow plastic pan will work provided it is not too deep and that the turtles can enter and leave easily. If a pan is too deep the bottom can be lined with bricks to provide a suitable depth.

Hide spots can be made with clay pots turned on their side and partially buried. Plants can also be used to provide hide spots and suitable shade. When using plants care must be taken to provide plants that are non toxic. A great plant to use is called Hostas. They come in many varieties, are attractive and have the added benefit of attracting slugs for your boxies to eat. Rocks and logs can also be used to make the enclosure more natural and interesting for your turtles. It is a good idea to have a square area made form slate or paving stone to serve as a feeding area. The slate or paving stone should be buried so that its surface is flush with the ground. This allows an area that can be cleaned easily so that too much debris is not picked up by the food and ingested by your turtles.

 

Indoors: 

The only really suitable container for an indoor enclosure is a 50-gallon Rubbermaid tub, or something manufactured out of wood or other material. Glass tanks do not make good homes for box turtles no matter how big they are!!

6-8 inches of substrate must be provided. Peat moss mixed with organic potting soil (no perlite or other additives) makes an excellent substrate. Other things that can be used are Cypress mulch or orchid bark. It is important to keep the substrate moist but not wet. Sphagnum moss can be placed over areas o to keep in the moisture and help maintain humidity.

Humidity is the biggest problem in an indoor enclosure. I recommend that of the top of the enclosure should be covered to help hold the humidity to acceptable levels.

Water bowls can be made from a shallow plant saucer. The saucer should be at least 10-12 inches in diameter.

Suitable lighting must be provided as well. Florida Box turtles need both heat and UVB lighting to maintain proper health. Heat can be provided using a regular incandescent bulb shining on a basking spot. UVB is then provided using a fluorescent light such as a Reptisun 5.0 or Repti Glo 8.0 bulb. Mercury Vapor bulbs can also be used. These bulbs will provide heat and suitable UVB in one bulb.

Hide spots must be provided as well and optimally will be placed at both the warm and cool ends of the enclosure. Plants can be added but should remain in their pots to prevent being trampled.

CAPTIVE DIET

Hatchling Florida Box Turtles start out as mostly carnivorous but slowly change over to a more omnivorous diet as they grow to adulthood. They do however remain highly carnivorous through-out their lives. Earthworms, crickets, mealworms, wax worms, and silkworms all make suitable food for box turtles. It is important to dust these with a good vitamin powder at least once a week and a calcium supplement 2-3 times a week. Calcium supplements need to have a 2:0 Calcium:Phosphorus (Ca:P) ratio.

Suitable veggies include a mixture of dandelion, mustard, or turnip greens, Grated carrot, sweet potato, or yellow squash. Cod liver oil can be sprinkled on the veggies to entice your turtle to eat them.  Fruit can be offered but should only account for maybe 10% of the total diet. Suitable fruits are strawberries, mull-berries, black-berries, raspberries, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, or papaya. Bananas are relished it seems but should only be offered very infrequently.

Commercial foods can also be used in combination with live and fresh foods. Rep Cal Box turtle food, Mazuri Tortoise and aquatic food, Reptomin, and Nutrafin gammarus can all be used. 

COMMUNITY HABITAT

It is possible to keep more than one box turtle in an enclosure provided it is large enough. However care must be taken on the sex of the community. There should be 2 females to every male, preferably more. Males are very aggressive and will harass a female to breed constantly. Having more females allows the other female /s to rest.

Whenever a new turtle is added to an existing community it should first be quarantined at least 60 days, preferably at least 90 days to make sure it is not ill and cannot infect your existing turtles. All new turtles should also have a Vet check at the beginning and end of the quarantine period. Stool samples should also be taken to be sure new turtles have no internal parasites to pass to existing turtles.

OTHER INFORMATION

Florida Box Turtles make interesting and rewarding pets. Their care can be challenging but at the same time very rewarding.

Wild box turtle populations are declining rapidly. It is for this reason that they should never be collected from the wild unless their habitat and or safety are being threatened. Always try to adopt a turtle first. There are many turtles that need good homes and can be yours for the asking.

Remember that owning a box turtle is a great responsibility but is also a very rewarding experience!!