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Turtles/Eastern Box turtle

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Hi! So glad I found this site. My husband found a eastern box turtle at work on Wednesday and brought him home. We bought all the stuff to make an outside terrarium/enclosure. We are excited to plant romaine lettuce and have him as a pet and our 2 kids will learn all about him and box turtles (kids are excited). It's day 3 and Charlie (the box turtle) is not eating :(

We bought crickets and I mixed in strawberries and meal worms. We bought a big dish that is shallow enough for him to bathe and drink in without problems of getting out. Hours spent on YouTube and google on their needs. Please tell me if there is anyway to get Charlie to eat? It's only been 3 days and I know they take minute to warm up...? Any better ideas to get him to eat? Different food?

Also is there any rescue place to adopt another box turtle as company for Charlie? We are really hoping to have 2 turtles as a pet and give them an excellent home. They are native here... If we have to let Charlie go because he's not eating, should we keep trying (catching another one and trying to pet them, if not release)? Thanks so much really appreciate your advice!!

Answer
Hi Ashli,

The best lesson you can teach your kids about turtles is that wild turtles need to stay in the wild.  Box turtles species are becoming endangered over most of their range, and every one taken out of the wild affects the future of the species.  So please take Charlie back to where he was found, or the nearest safe area, and let him go.  It's the best thing for him.

If you want a pet box turtle for your kids, captive bred hatchlings and juveniles are easily available.  That way, you won't be affecting the wild population, and your kids can have the experience of raising a hatchling or juvenile to a healthy adult.  A captive bred turtle is also less likely to be stressed in captivity.  Wild turtles are often very shy and it can take a long time for them to adjust.

The key to keeping box turtles is plenty of space, ideally outside (once they're big enough), lots of moisture, and a varied diet.  If you build a good-sized pen outside, and then plant it and have plenty of leaf litter, bark, logs, etc., the box turtle will be able to do some foraging for worms, snails, insects, and so forth.  You can supplement with fruit and greens a few times a week.  A hatchling can be kept inside with proper lighting (heat and UVB), moist substrate, and an open/airy enclosure (not a tank).  Cement mixing tubs (2 x 3, from Lowe's or Home Depot), make great hatchling enclosures.  They can go outside during the day as long as there's plenty of shade for them and they're in an area that's safe from predators, but should stay in a fully enclosed area such as a mixing tub because they can squeeze through very small cracks.  

Here's a link for more care information:  http://aboxturtle.com.  Joe also breeds box turtles and usually has hatchlings for sale, and I highly recommend him as he is very knowledgeable.  If you click on the picture at the bottom of the page, it'll take you to another page with a contact link.  I'm not sure if he has hatchlings right now, but if not he sometimes has juveniles tool.  If you have any more questions, please post and I'll do what I can to answer them.  

Here's an article that explains in more detail why it's so important for Charlie to be returned to the wild.  I think if you explain it to your children, they'll understand.  http://herpetology.com/belzer/boxturtle.htm  

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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.

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

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