Terrapene carolina carolina et al

The common box turtle, a popular pet in the southern areas of the USA due to its commonality in the wild.  There are many varieties:

  • The Common Eastern Box Turtle: 4-6 inches long w/high domed shell.  Coloring is orange and red splotched over brown--males with colorful heads and forelegs.  Found all along the East Coast of the USA, Maine to Florida and as far west as Michigan, Illinois, and Tennessee.
  • The Three-Toed Box Turtle:  Slightly smaller than the Common Eastern at 3.5-5 inches, with the same high domed shell.  Coloring is olive or yellow brown with possible yellow lines or dashes.  Usually have three toes but sometimes have four.  Found from Missouri south to the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The Gulf Coast Box Turtle: 5-7 inches long w/domed shell.  Much more common in the South than in the North.  Much more drab than its smaller Common and Three-toed cousins, sporting a basic brown.
  • The Western Ornate Box Turtle: 4-5 inches long with a flatter shell.  Dark brown or black with a starburst pattern.
  • The Asian Box Turtle: 5-8 inches long, depending on species (Chinese or Malaysian).  The Malaysian is semi-aquatic.  These introduced species are from China, Malaysia, and other southeast Asian countries.

Housing: Your box turtle should be kept outside.  If you live in an area that is not healthy for cold-blooded animals or in an apartment, you should probably consider a different pet.  A protected, high-sided planter (they're good climbers, so be careful) with bark chips or soil base is probably your best bet for housing.  Be sure to use only nonpoisonous, edible plants such as strawberry plants, collard greens, parsley, and clover, and include a hide of some sort.  The larger the planter, the better.  No, glass tanks are not an option.  If you want to have more than one box tortoise, either maintain an equal number of males and females, or an all-female group.  Make sure you don't mix species. Also, provide plenty of water and a fairly constant temperature gradient from 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Feeding: Box tortoises are omnivorous.  In the wild they eat grubs, worms, insects, small plants, fruit, berries, and mushrooms.  In your home you can feed your turtle a diet consisting of:

You should also provide a cuttlefish bone for additional calcium.

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