The Box Turtle (Terrapene species)
By the editorial staff of Reptile & Amphibian Magazine

Box Turtles are one of the most loved of all the reptile pets. These intelligent, long-living, personality-packed creatures are easy to keep in captivity, and quickly become one of the family. The Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) and the Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata) are two of the most commonly kept species in the Box Turtle group.

NATIVE RANGE: found throughout most of the continental United States, plus parts of Mexico

HABITAT: varies, from forest to woodlands to prairies--but usually they do not wander far from a good source of water

ADULT LENGTH: five to seven in ches in carapace (shell) length

CAGE & ACCESSORIES: Young Box Turtles can start off in a 10-gallon aquarium with newspaper or soil substrate. Provide a water dish (ideally, it should be deep enough for the turtle to soak) and a hide box. As they grow, these turtles need more space, and are best suited to a pen which can be kept outside as the weather permits. Box turtles are excellent diggers, so if you keep them outside make sure they cannot burrow underneath perimeter walls. Use leaf or bark mulch for substrate, and make sure they have a shady area to retreat to when the sun gets too hot. Some turtle keepers allow this species the run of the house, and do not cage them at all. This is not recommended, especially in the winter, as these turtles need supplemental heating and could become chilled if they cannot find a warm spot.

TEMPERATURE: Since box turtles are temperate species, they do well at room temperature (70-80F). During the winter, make sure they have a warm spot to retreat to (a heating pad under the cage does the trick). Some hobbyists hibernate their animals, although this is not necessary for captives.

DIET: Box turtles are true omnivores, and will eat a variety of food items: earthworms, crickets, mealworms, dog food, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables will be taken. Carrots, strawberries, bananas, apples, cantaloupe, and lettuce are especially favored. Today there are a number of commercial box turtle diets on the market, and these can be offered in a dish at all times, so the turtle can eat whenever it is hungry. Then supplement the prepared diet with occasional fruits, vegetables, and other treats.

These chelonians live a long time--so be sure you want to take care for an animal that can live as long as a human! This is not a short-term project. Also, check your state and local laws, to make sure you can keep Terrapene species where you live. Never remove a Box Turtle from the wild to keep as a pet. If you decide to keep this animal, find a private breeder or pet shop where you can purchase a captive-bred turtle. These animals are full of personality, and they are easy to care for pets that will bring your family years of joy.

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