1. Box turtles are wild animals that live outside. Do not keep yours in a tank. It is a sad existence for an animal that is used to living in a quiet, wild habitat where he can hide among the leaves and bury himself in the dirt. Make sure that your box turtle has a safe place to live in your yard. It should have a high fence to make it predator proof, plenty of places to hide, no pesticides or Snarol and shallow pot saucers of water to soak in.
2. Box turtles should feel heavy when you pick them up. They are carnivores. They eat worms, snails, slugs and other small insects as well as some green vegetation. So if your garden does not have enough for your box turtle to eat, buy some super worms at the local pet store and let him eat as many as he wants every day.
3. Box turtles hibernate. They will stop eating about early September or later if you live in a warm climate. If they are indigenous to your area, or you live in a temperate climate, or if they have lived outside all along, they can hibernate in the leaves and dirt. They need moisture so do not hibernate them in a box in your house. If you must hibernate them in the house, put them in a Rubbermaid box in fertilizer free potting soil in a cool area with a small container of water for moisture. Check them once a month.
4. Box turtles should have bright clear eyes and no runny noses. They normally close up their hinge when disturbed. If you can pull open the bottom shell easily with your finger, and the turtle is acting sluggish, has nasal or eye discharge, has swollen eyes or has stopped eating, you need to see a vet. This is not normal. Make sure that you see a reptile "exotic" vet who knows all about turtles.
5. If your turtle is planning to lay eggs, it will often stop eating. This is normal. It might start and stop digging for several days before it finds the spot it likes. Normally this happens at dusk. They will become mesmerized and dig with their back feet until the eggs are ready to be laid. If you want to hatch them yourself, carefully dig them up, keeping them in the direction that they were laid. Put them in vermiculite with a baby food size jar of water buried next to them. Cover with plastic, put on top of the frig or other warm place and wait three months. If you leave them in the ground (my preference), they usually take longer to hatch. It's possible ants or groundhogs will eat them, however.
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Below is the house we built for our sulcata, as well as many other houses for the sanctuary years ago. We used plywood for the roof with fireproof James Hardie 4 x 8 foot cement siding on top, which provides rain and sun protection. We built cinder block and rebar houses with the removable roof for cleaning and a removable door for closing as well as a wind barrier. The roof has a radiant heat panel screwed into the underside for heat from above and the floor is made up of pig blankets (made for pigs so they can take the weight) called Kane heat pads – both are available from www.beanfarm.com. Never use any lights – they cause fires. Never cover the pig blankets with any substrate or hay.
American Tortoise Rescue , the international nonprofit for turtle and tortoise protection, is asking consumers to not buy live animals, especially turtles and tortoises. Adopt please! Here’s a list of rescues in the U.S and elsewhere http://www.tortoise.com/need-a-rescue.html.
According to Susan Tellem, co-founder of the sanctuary, while these wonderful reptiles have outlived the dinosaurs, wide spread illegal smuggling and the commercial pet trade in turtles and tortoises has devastated wild populations worldwide. Many once thriving species are now threatened or endangered. Worse, some are now extinct.
"The pet industry thrives on small, adorable exotic animals with a big price tag," Tellem says. "What we are recommending is to avoid impulse buys. We understand the appeal of an adorable two inch baby turtle!” Tellem adds, “But most animal rescues have many turtles and tortoises ready for adoption to good homes.”
Tellem gives five reasons why people shouldn’t buy a turtle or tortoise.
She adds that a domesticated pet cannot be put back into the wild. It will die or introduce disease into an already precarious wild ecosystem. In many states, it is also illegal.
Tellem says that the option of placing the animal with a rescue is not always the answer, as her rescue is full as are most others. The best solution is to find a compassionate adopter who is willing to give a proper “forever home” to the pet. There are many national rescue organizations listed on www.tortoise.com which can facilitate adoptions if people are interested in getting an animal.
One way to enjoy a turtle or tortoise without harming them is to make a donation to a nonprofit like American Tortoise Rescue. “This allows us to educate people and care for the ones that are ill in our sanctuary. If a donor makes a $100 donation or more, we send them an adoption certificate featuring one of our permanent residents, and it’s good for one year. People enjoy that because they can care for the animal vicariously,” Tellem says.
American Tortoise Rescue, Malibu, Calif., is a nonprofit founded in 1990 to provide for the protection of all species of tortoise and turtle. For more information, contact: American Tortoise Rescue at www.tortoise.com ; or email firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow on Twitter @tortoiserescue and on Facebook. Tellem started World Turtle Day® 17 years ago which is now celebrated globally (and is trademarked). Find out more at www.wroldturtleday.org and on Facebook and twitter.
© 2016 American Tortoise Rescue