Species group: American and Asian Box Turtles
Other common names: North American Box Turtle
Scientific name: Terrapene carolina major
Part land animal, part aquatic these small turtles natural range covers part of the eastern half of the United States and into northern Mexico. They always live near a water source, often near riparian habitats and marshes. They stay in their small territories of less than 750 square feet.
Due to the North American Box Turtle’s population decline, in several states they are a protected species. In Florida you may possess up to two but may not sell, buy, or trade them, this applies to all three subspecies. Other states, such as Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia also have regulations regarding their possession. It’s best to check with your state’s Fish and Game Department for regulations before acquiring a North American Box Turtle.
Appearance / health:
As their name suggests all the subspecies of the North American Box Turtle are able to box themselves into their shell thanks to a hinged plasteron. All have a high and well rounded carapace, a compact body, a small hook on the upper beak, and toes with slight webbing. The Gulf Coast Box Turtles are smaller at 6” while the Eastern and Three- toed are bigger at 8”, although they may take 20 years to reach their full size. Males have orange to red eyes while females are light orange to yellow.
The Gulf Coast Box Turtle ( T. c. major) is the largest of the four subspecies coming in at a hefty one and a half pounds and 8 ½ inches in length. They are usually the darkest in color, sometimes appearing almost black and may have splashes of yellow to burnt orange coloring on their shell. They have four toes on the back feet.
AVERAGE ADULT WEIGHT: 1 lb
AVERAGE ADULT SIZE: 6-8 inches
If you have the subspecies Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) go here to rate your turtle: Eastern Box Turtle
If you have the subspecies Three-toed Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina triunguis) go here to rate your turtle: Three-toed Box Turtle
Behavior / temperament:
An interesting personality trait is that these guys love rain; a good thunderstorm will make them very active.
It is believed by many that housing these box turtles indoors in glass aquariums is not ideal and leads to health problems and a shorten life span. Most anywhere in the United States these turtles can be house quite easily outdoors where they thrive. A minimum sized enclosure for two Gulf Coast Box Turtles is 8 square feet of floor space. Their outdoor enclosure should be designed with protection from escaping, predators, and giving them the option to have the benefit of the sun, wind, and rain, or to hide from the elements. They will enjoy the use of a small pool for drinking and defecating. Provide burrowing space, rocks, or boxes for hiding and sleeping. Natural grasses and other foods can be planted for them to forage on. Regular cleaning can be done easily by raking the area and washing all water sources.
LIFESPAN: 30-40 years
TEMPERATURE/HUMIDITY: Day temperatures should be 70 – 85 degrees F. with 60-80% humidity. Night temperatures should be 50-60 degrees F. If you are living in the drier or desert regions of the U.S. you can raise the humidity of their enclosure with damp soil, grass, shrubs, and misters.
HIBERNATION / ESTIVATION: These turtles will naturally hibernate if temperatures drop below 50 degrees F and estivate at temperatures above 90 degrees F. They do need a 2 -3 month hibernation. During hibernation temperatures should be maintained at 55-65 degrees F. Whether hibernating indoors or out they must be in a location that is humid so that they do not dehydrate and die. If the temperature outside regularly drops below 25° F they should be brought inside for hibernation.
HEALTH CONCERNS: Box Turtles originating directly from the wild often suffer from several illnesses including parasite, internal and external, salmonella, dehydration and starvation. Those born in captivity and have been given quality care are less likely to be stressed by the pet life and much healthier overall. They can also suffer from nutritional deficiencies and respiratory diseases. Eye and ear infections can occur if they are not provided with sufficient humidity.
Young North American Box Turtles are primarily carnivorous, eating anything they can catch including snakes, birds, eggs, dead animals, bugs, and snails. Once they reach maturity at the age of 5 or six they switch to an omnivorous diet. As a pet, owners should give their box turtle a diet that closely resembles what they would eat in the wild. Young box turtles can be fed mice, snails and slugs from the yard (a nice bonus of having a box turtle), bugs, and canned low fat dog food. Adult box turtles should be fed a variety dark leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits. Adults do need 10 – 20% of their diet to be protein. They can be fed the same foods as young box turtles to meet this need. Feed adults every other day, young daily. Both young and adults must have a reptile vitamin supplement a couple times a week sprinkled on their food. Choose foods that are brightly colored; lots of yellow, orange, and red foods will help your box turtle to maintain their vibrant colors.
The breeding season is in spring and summer months. The actual act of mating act can last hours, and the females can store sperm for years – something to know if you have or plan to get a female! The female will lay multiple clutches throughout several weeks. The eggs will hatch 50-90 days later.
good first pet, highly underrated pet, fabulous pets, temperament
My 39th birthday is almost upon us and along with hoping that my body does not fall apart, I often find myself reminiscing about summers past when I had more free time than I dare to admit. It was during one of these summers that I "found" George the Gulf Coast Box Turtle, obviously named for the flamboyant pop singer George Michael who I had an unhealthy obsession with at the time.
My childhood home is surrounded in the back by an 8 foot privacy fence that, according to my highly paranoid Dad, is designed to deter nosy neighbours from visually invading almost all of our family parties. At the bottom of the fence is a small space that only the cleverest animals can get through. It was here that I "found" George. I must also mention that I had help with this find because it was my dog that actually started to dig in the spot where George was half-buried. In order to save George from a painful encounter with a very determined and rambunctious Chow Chow named Gladys (another one of my Mum's ridiculous names), I swiftly picked him up and ran over to a bucket of rain water to clean him up.
I was instantly smitten by this creature as I had only previously seen them on TV or in pet stores. I was about 12 years old at the time and getting information off of my computer was not that easy so I found an old child's pool that was gathering dust in my Dad's garage and put him in it temporarily. (Do not fill pool with water or your turtle could drown.) From then on, George became my obsession and I would spend hours finding out that he was an omnivore and that he needed plenty of shade. My backyard became his home and I let him have his freedom but always made sure he had fresh lettuce and hard boiled eggs to munch on. Our family also owned an in ground swimming pool that seemed to house a plethora of tasty snacks for George such as beetles, palmetto bugs and crickets. He always loved to teeter near the edge of the pool and scare me to death but I think he just enjoyed the moisture that came from it. (Florida really does live up to its name, The Sunshine State) On scorching hot days, he would half bury himself in the ground again but he never strayed too far from his yard.
Whenever I picked George up, he would retract his head into his shell and peek out at me slowly, reassuring himself that it was me and he had nothing to fear. He was very friendly with me and only tried to bite me with his razor sharp beak-like mouth a few times when I was getting on his nerves. I would not recommend this type of turtle for any children under the age of 8 but can be fun for them if supervised.
At the time, I did not know to take him to the veterinarian in order to check for parasites but I would highly recommend this if you plan to keep your turtle for a pet. This type of turtle also does not do well indoors so if you do not have a yard, fabricate a turtle environment with an old aquarium of ample size or a sand box. Make sure there is water available and that your turtle has rocks to climb onto in order to soak in those Florida rays!
I have no idea where George is right now as he was master and commander of the yard but I enjoyed some nice summers caring for him and telling him my teen angst. The box turtle is a highly underrated pet but I would give a thumbs up to anyone asked me!.
From piccolina1974 Jul 26 2013 4:59AM
From findiviglio 809 days ago