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Box Turtles Care

By: Dr. David Nieves

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In the wild, during the winter months, healthy box turtles will hibernate for 2 to 3 months when the temperatures fall. In captivity, many turtles are not in good enough condition to live through a hibernation period.

Therefore, before winter comes, it is a good idea to visit your exotic animal veterinarian with your turtle and some of his feces to better ascertain the type of winter care that will be best for your turtle.

This visit will ensure that the turtle does not have any pre-existing illnesses. The illnesses in question would be respiratory infections, vitamin A deficiencies, abscesses, shell rot or intestinal parasites. It is also fun to see how much weight your turtle has gained and how much longer and wider he has become since last year's visit.

If hibernation is an option for your turtle then your present habitat can be altered to fit this lifestyle change. You will need to make the cage rodent proof and add bedding material such as dried leaves. The bedding material needs to be dry and free of pests.

The temperature also needs to be changed to somewhere between 36-50 degrees Fahrenheit. Often, you can move your turtle down to the basement or garage and turn off the heating sources to make this temperature change. Monitor the temperature with a thermometer.

Turtles are likely to suffer frost bite or die if they freeze. Also, if the temperatures are too warm (i.e. high 50s to low 60s), the turtles will be too cool to be active, but warm enough that their metabolism will be too high. The result is that they will burn off their fat stores too quickly and will starve before they wake up from hibernation.

Again, a thermometer is useful in determining the exact temperature. Because it cannot be properly digested at cooler temperatures, food should not be offered during these months, but a water pan should be available at all times. After a couple of months have passed (consult with your reptile veterinarian to determine the appropriate length for your turtle), the turtle should be moved to its normal surroundings, warmed up and offered his favorite food.

A successful hibernation will ensure the longevity and mental well being of your box turtle for years to come.

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