What Makes the Eastern Box Turtle Special?

Pet Type


May 5, 2020

Most people are well aware of the fact that there are many different kinds of pets out there that you can choose from. In fact, it is quite easy to say that there is a pet for just about everyone.

Some people prefer traditional companions, such as cats and dogs. Other people might appreciate reptiles and amphibians more, watching more exotic animals living out their lives. There are some people who enjoy watching insects and spiders, and other people prefer to sit back and watch fish swim around. There are even a few people who enjoy owning rodents.

Out of all the different pets out there, one of the biggest questions that people face is how long a pet can live under your care. Most people don’t want pets that will die within a couple years, which is where turtles come into play as pets. If you are looking for a unique, exotic pet that can last you a lifetime as a pet, you might want to consider the idea of adopting a turtle. One of the most beautiful turtles that you can adopt is the Eastern box turtle.

The Eastern box turtle is one of the most beautiful variants of the box turtle around, making it an eye-catching pet to have in your home. Generally, taking the time to set up a proper enclosure and have it fitted for the needs of a box turtle is going to take a lot of time and money. Therefore, you should understand exactly what the box turtle wants so that you can provide it with one of the best homes possible. If you are up to the challenge, then this is a turtle that will be more than happy to be your companion for decades to come.

Where Did the Eastern Box Turtle Come From?

As the name might suggest, the eastern box turtle is a variant of the box turtle species that is found almost exclusively on the eastern coast of the United States of America. It is found all throughout the eastern Gulf of Mexico and Yucatan Peninsula up toward Florida and through the state of Maine. While it is found primarily on the eastern portion of land, it can be found as far west as Texas and the Great Lakes region.

They typically prefer to live in vegetative areas, which includes anywhere that there is an abundance of plants for these turtles to nest in. If they can help it, they also prefer to live near ponds, rivers, streams, and other areas that experience heavy rainfall. This allows the turtles the best chances to feast on both plant life and aquatic life in the nearby body of water.

What Does the Eastern Box Turtle Look Like?

As one of the most common box turtle species out there, they are pretty easy to recognize once you come across them. They are somewhat small for turtles, usually coming in between five and six inches long. They usually have a part of the mouth that is partially hooked, which helps them snap at their prey more easily. For mild amounts of swimming, the toes of the box turtle are slightly webbed as well.

As for the colors that can be found on the shell, these turtles have a base shell color that will range anywhere from dark brown to an olive-brown color. All of their shells are going to have a distinct, decorative yellow pattern all across their shells, making them one of the most beautiful types of turtles in their native area.

Some of these turtles will even have yellow markings on their feet and faces, although there are many of them out there that do not. If they do have markings, their legs will usually have yellow or orange scales on them and their heads will be marked with the same yellow pattern that will be on the back of their shell. With these bright colors, the eastern box turtle can easily make a statement at just about any home.

How Does the Eastern Box Turtle Behave?

First things first, you should understand and expect that the box turtle is going to move how you would typically expect a turtle to move: slow. If you are more used to fast-paced rodents and fish that are always doing something, you should be prepared to know that box turtles do not do nearly as much, nearly as quickly.

Aside from that, these turtles usually wake up in the day and spend time foraging for their food. You should try to have regular interactions with your turtle, as this will help accustom the turtle to your touch. You should aim to handle it gently every day so that when the time comes to clean their cage or to take it to the vet, your turtle won’t be nearly as stressed out when you carry it there. They can get stressed out quickly from too much handling, so keep this in mind when you are interacting with your turtle friend.

While it is hard to know what is going through a turtle’s mind, many owners believe that these turtles are smart and have their own personalities to them. In fact, some turtles have even been proven to recognize their favorite person and beg for food from that person. Some turtles will play with toys that are left inside the terrarium, such as a small ball. Even if your turtle doesn’t play with the toys at first, you should always leave that option there for them.

What Kind of Care Does the Eastern Box Turtle Need?

These turtles, as omnivores, will want to have a diet that includes both insects and plants. They generally prefer about 60% animals and about 40% plants in their diet. While you are planning out what to feed your turtle, you should rotate the foods around every so often, as a varied diet significantly improves a turtle’s quality of life. For animal matter, these turtles enjoy eating crickets, earthworms, nightcrawlers, hornworms, phoenix worms, and roaches. Generally, worms are the best to go with, but crickets and roaches work fine.

For plants, you can either feed it leafy greens or vegetables, depending on what is easier for you to access. You can also feed it fruit, but keep in mind that fruit tends to have a lot of sugar and this isn’t always good for your turtle. You can also invest in pellets for your turtle to make up part of the diet. If you choose to get commercial pellets, remember to soften them a bit with water first to make it easier on your turtle’s mouth.

If you care for them right, these turtles can live between 80 and 100 years, making them a life-long companion if you are willing to put the work into it.

What Kind of Terrarium Environment Does the Eastern Box Turtle Need?

This is the most complex part of caring for an eastern box turtle, as you will need a lot of supplies to get a terrarium working. You have two choices with how you can house turtles. You can have an outdoor enclosure or you can have an indoor one. If you live in an area where the eastern box turtle can be found natively, then you can consider the outdoor enclosure as an option. Otherwise, it is usually safest to stick with the indoor one, as you can control the temperature and humidity as needed.

For an outdoor enclosure, you will want to have a four-foot by four-foot square for one turtle. When placing the barriers for the enclosure, remember to dig about six inches into the ground, as these turtles are surprisingly good at getting out of enclosures. You should find a place where the turtle will get both morning and afternoon sun, as this is when the turtle will be the most active.

Shrubbery, accessories, and hiding places can be scattered around. Hiding places are a must, despite the fact the turtle can hide in its shell. You will want to create a large water bowl for your turtle to interact with. You should always make sure that the enclosure has a solid top so that predators can’t take the turtle away or damage it. If the humidity in your area is low, you can always mist the enclosure to boost it, otherwise you let nature take its course for heating.

For indoor enclosures, you will need to get all of the above, as well as heating lamps to simulate sunlight. These enclosures should be 36-inch by 12-inch for one turtle, and bigger is always better if you can afford it. Turtles can see out of the glass, and they will want to explore, and the fact that they cannot walk through the glass will stress them out immensely. You should purchase a UVB light source. One side of the enclosure needs to be notably warmer than the other. Substrate should be three inches deep at least so they can burrow into it.