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Question
Hello!  We have had a female Eastern Box turtle, George (we thought she was a male) for almost a year.  She lives inside, and my 3 boys play with her and feed her all the time..she is very docile, and very friendly.  Today I found another one, a male, on the side of the road, and brought him home.  So far he is still in his shell.  I rinsed him off a bit because he has a pinkish spot on the "door" part of his bottom shell, about a half inch in diameter.  I'm assuming it's some sort of injury that's healing?  It seems rough around the edges, I am not sure if it's new or that's how they heal?  In any case, I'm wondering if I should keep them separate for awhile?  George is very curious about the new guy, but he's not out of his shell so I'm not sure what will happen once he's out.  I am also not sure if she will be on the offensive because of his injury... is that something a turtle would see as a weakness to go after?  Anything else you can let me know about introducing a new turtle like this would be greatly appreciated!  Thank you!

Answer
Please return the turtle to the location where he was found (away from the road, of course).  Wild turtles belong in the wild, and native populations are becoming endangered because of collection.  Adults of breeding age are critically important to the survival of the species.  If you want another box turtle, captive bred hatchlings and juveniles are available, or you can contact a rescue organization about adoption.  If you think the turtle has an active injury that needs attention, he can be turned over to a wildlife rehabber for treatment.  

As far as George goes, I recommend you build an outdoor enclosure for her.  Box turtles really shouldn't be housed indoors if at all possible--they do much better living outside all year round.  A pen at least 6 x 6, and if possible 10 x 10, would be ideal.  If you plant it with edible plants and strawberries, and make a mulch pile of leaves and straw, she'll be able to hunt and forage for berries, insects, worms, snails, etc.  This encourages natural behavior and is very healthy for them.  For the winter, an area of soft soil will allow her to dig in, and then can be covered with straw.  

If you must keep George indoors, make sure she has a large enclosure (at least 4 x 8) with a good basking spot and source of UVB.  Box turtles need quite a bit of moisture, so the substrate should be something that will hold moisture (generally a mix of coir, playsand, and sphagnum moss), and there should be a water dish that she can get into completely.  Don't keep her in a tank on dry substrate!  This can lead to bladder stones over time, which is a serious health problem.  Box turtles are omnivores, so she should be offered a good variety of animal protein (snails, slugs, worms, crickets, spiders, pinky mice, etc.) along with fruit and greens.  Give as much variety as possible.  

Any new turtles should always be quarantined for three to six months before introducing to the enclosure.  This allows them to settle in, and gives you a chance to watch for disease and to make sure they're eating well and acting normally.  Keep in mind that more turtles require more space, and if there is a mix of males and females you may need to provide a considerable amount of room to avoid harassment of the females.

One other note:  make sure your boys only handle George under your supervision, and wash their hands thoroughly afterward.  Reptiles can shed salmonella, and while the risk of transmission is low if good handwashing techniques are followed, you don't want them picking her up and then putting their fingers in or near their mouths without washing first.  I've had kids and reptiles for years and never had a problem, but I always have to watch to make sure they wash up well.  

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Jeannie

Expertise

Questions regarding husbandry of Russian tortoises and other Mediterranean species, sulcata, and redfoot tortoises; general tortoise and turtle care; box turtle care. If I can't answer a specific question, I can provide sources for further research. Disclaimer: My advice is not a substitute for vet care. If I think your tortoise/turtle has a specific medical condition or injury that warrants a vet visit, I'll tell you so, and if possible I'll help you locate a vet. It is neither legal nor ethical for me to provide veterinary advice.

Experience

I have kept and bred Russian tortoises for over ten years and have other Mediterranean species plus redfoots and box turtles. I've worked with other tortoise and turtle species while doing volunteer rescue work; mostly sulcata but some leopards, California desert tortoises, yellowfoots, all box turtle species, red-eared sliders, etc. I don't personally keep aquatic species, but have access to a wealth of information and research to help you with any questions you might have.

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My knowledge is based on hands-on experience keeping, breeding, and working with tortoises and turtles.

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