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Box Turtle Care

Housing: The most suitable environment to satisfy the roaming habits of box turtles is a large, fenced enclosure or yard. Box turtles are escape artists and good climbers, so fences should be intact and secure. Use of chicken wire to reinforce fences in poor repair is recommended. The habitat should contain low bushes to provide protection and privacy for the turtles. Shade and a shallow source of water are essential. Some fanciers advocate use of dry leaves to enable the box turtles to burrow. Indoor enclosures are not nearly as desirable unless they can be spaciously constructed. A mature box turtle should not be housed in a small terrarium as is common practice. Terrariums can be used as temporary housing at night for box turtles allowed outside in the daytime. An indoor enclosure can be constructed with high wooden sides, indoor-outdoor carpeting on its floor for ease in cleaning, and a large terra cotta or ceramic saucer to hold drinking water.

Heat Source:
A focal heat source (hot rock, lamp, heater) that allows the turtle to voluntarily warm itself should be provided in an indoor habitat. Visual security is an often overlooked aspect of captive reptile husbandry. Many box turtles will not feed in the presence of people and require a hiding area for this purpose and for additional security.

Artificial sunlight is a necessity if a box turtle is housed for long periods indoors. The Vita-Lite (Dura-Lite Lamps, Dura-Test Corp., Lyndhurst, NJ 07071) is an acceptable substitute for incidental sunlight. It provides the ultraviolet spectrum needed by vertebrates for vitamin D metabolism and calcium utilization. Incandescent light bulbs, filtered sun-light (through window glass) and plant lights are not acceptable alternatives.