Three Toed Box Turtle Overview
Three Toed Box Turtle are frequently seen in their natural ranges, but should not be collected from the wild because their numbers are constantly being reduced by suburban encroachment, road kill, and pollution. Both captive-bred box turtles and long-term pet turtles are available from many sources, including reptile expos, turtle organizations, internet sales, and directly from small breeders and owners who want to re-home a turtle. Prices can vary from “free to a good home” to a price usually under $100.
Three-toed Box Turtle Size
Full grown three-toed box turtles are typically 4 to 6 inches long (10.2 to 15.2 cm). They grow rapidly during their first 6 years, but slow down thereafter and reach full size in 12 to 15 years.
Three-toed Box Turtle Life Span
In the seminal study by E. R. Schwartz and C.W. Schwartz (1974): The three-toed box turtle in central Missouri, Part 2: A nineteen year study of home range, movement and population, the authors determined some of the older turtles in their study area to be from 33 to 51 years old. There have been numerous undocumented reports of box turtles living 50 years or more in captivity.
Three-toed Box Turtle Caging
Box turtles do best when they can live outside in large, naturalistic pens. Outdoor enclosures should be built on well-draining soil with rot-resistant walls at least 20 inches tall. A barrier should extend at least 10 inches underground at every perimeter wall to prevent turtles from digging out. Access to sunny spots, as well as shade, should be available so the turtle can thermo-regulate. Small shrubs, dwarf fruiting trees, ground cover and small logs will offer shade, hides and sight breaks for the turtle. Large, shallow water pans should be provided at all times so the turtles have a source of drinking water and for soaking.
Three-toed Box Turtle Lighting and Temperature
A temperature gradient should be maintained in the enclosure with a warm side of 80° F (27° C) and a cooler side about 10 degrees less. A heat lamp or incandescent light bulb can supply heat and a basking area of 85° F (29° C). A mercury vapor bulb (MVB) provides ultraviolet B (UVB) wavelength radiation as well heat. If a MVB is not used, a full-spectrum fluorescent bulb or a compact fluorescent bulb should be used to provide the UVB radiation necessary for synthesis of vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is required for calcium uptake and is important for proper shell and bone development and maintenance. Lights and heating sources should not be placed too close to the turtle so that overheating or damage to the eyes is avoided. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for safe positioning. Keep lights turned on for 12 to 14 hours a day. A drop in temperature at night is normal, but should not go below 75° F in the winter in order to suppress the urge to hibernate.