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Box Turtle Eastern Health Information

Ideally, Box Turtles should be housed outdoors when weather permits and can be allowed to brumate outdoors in suitable climates. Because box turtles dig burrows to brumate in and may dig at other times, the perimeter walls of the enclosure should extend about 2 feet below ground level to prevent escapes. Alternatively, the enclosure could be made with a solid or wire bottom that is then covered with soil or other substrate. The enclosure should be in an area that gets a lot of sun, but the box turtles should always have access to shade. It is a good idea to provide a box in the shade with a slightly moist sand and soil mixture that they can burrow into a bit, if it gets to dry or hot for them in their outdoor pen. When housed indoors it is very important to provide sufficient UVB exposure. Two full spectrum fluorescents with high UVB output are recommended. The bulbs should be positioned no more than12 inches (30.5 centimeters) above the turtles and should be on for 12 or 13 hours a day. The ambient daytime temperature should be 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (27 to 29 degrees Celsius) with a basking area about 98 degrees (37 degrees Celsius). Heat should be provided via an overhead source such as a ceramic heat emitter or incandescent bulb. Under-tank heaters and rock heaters are not appropriate for turtles. At night the temperature should drop to between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (21 and 24 degrees Celsius). They are omnivores and should be fed a wide variety of foods such as worms, crickets, fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, canned low-fat dog food (a premium brand), commercial box turtle foods, and primate biscuits softened in water. Adults can also be offered pinkie mice occasionally. Lettuce should not be offered because it is nutritionally very poor. High-oxalate vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, and spinach should also be avoided, because oxalates bind calcium, preventing it from being utilized. Insects, fruits, mushrooms, and vegetables should be dusted with a calcium supplement. Calcium deficiencies are perhaps the biggest health concern with captive box turtles. They can be avoided by providing sufficient UVB exposure and a proper diet. Box turtles, particularly hatchlings, are sometimes reluctant to eat, and individuals can show definite preferences for certain food items, sometimes to the point of refusing all else. It can be very difficult to get such turtles to eat a more varied diet, but it is important that they do. Box Turtles sometimes become obese in captivity, sometimes to the point of being unable to pull their limbs inside their shell. This is usually the result of an improperly balanced diet that contains too much animal matter or feeding very fattening foods, such as pinkie mice and dog food, too frequently. An adult Eastern Box Turtle's diet should consist mostly of plant matter, with only about 35% being made up of animal matter. A diet too high in protein can cause shell deformities and renal problems. Eastern Box Turtles like to soak in water and should have a shallow pool that they can easily get into and out of. Their pool will need to be cleaned frequently, because they often defecate in the water.

Adult Eastern Box Turtles are fairly easy to sex visually. Males of this species can be distinguished from females by their concave plastron in most cases. In addition, males usually have red eyes, and females usually have yellowish or brown eyes. The tail can also be a distinguishing characteristic. Male's tails tend to be thicker at the base, and the female's cloaca is often located under the carapace, while the male's is usually past the carapace. Eastern Box Turtles mate in the spring, summer, and early fall and nest from May to July. Females can store sperm and lay fertile eggs up to 4 years after a successful copulation. The male will circle the female, biting and ramming or pushing her before mounting her and copulating. The female will dig out a nest in the ground, lay her eggs, and then fill the nest back up with soil. Eastern Box Turtle females can lay a clutch of anywhere between 3 and 8 eggs, with 5 eggs per clutch being typical. The eggs can be incubated in damp vermiculite or perlite at between 72 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 30 degrees Celsius), and incubation takes 50 to 90 days, depending largely on the temperature. Eggs incubated at the lower temperatures generally take longer to hatch than those incubated at warmer temperatures. Like many reptiles, the incubation temperature determines the gender of the hatchlings. Clutches incubated at the lower end of the range will produce mostly male hatchlings, and those incubated above 83 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius) will produce mostly females. In the wild, incubation typically takes between 60 and 99 days.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Box_Turtle_Eastern".
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