Beware of Heating Pads for Box Turtles

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sibi

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Sadly, my baby GC box turtle died yesterday. I live in Florida where the Gulf Coast box turtles are a protected specie. One day in late September, I saw a baby box turtle come out of the grass and was on the concrete where I almost stepped on him. It looks like he was headed to the street where I was afraid that it would be crushed by a car. So, I decided to take it home even though I had no experience with boxies. I have an aquatic turtle that's 25 years old now, and I have three sulcatas (2 at 1 1/2 years old, and a 3 yr. old rescue).

I began to read up on first identifying what kind of turtle I found, and then how to care for it. I discovered it was a protected specie here in Florida, and I read up on its care and diet. I read where some would say to use a heating pad for babies especially if it were cold out, and the room temp was cold. Fortunately, I live in the Panhandle of Florida where the winter temps can get real cold but only for a few days at a time.

The first 4 months of his life I did not feel the need to use a heating pad. However, last week we had some rather cold weather and there was no heating source other than the ubv lighting I was using. I didn't use a CHE because I didn't think it was needed since these little guys live without that in their natural habitat. But, I had an extra heading pad, and since this baby was so cold feeling in the mornings, I decided to use it a few days ago.

I noticed that when I would try to look for her every morning to feed her and put her in a warm soak, I'd find her burrowed deep into the heading pad. I didn't think much of it because all was fine. I would check on her periodically, and sometimes she'd be in the shallow water tray I had for her, other times she'd be burrowed elsewhere.

Yesterday morning, I got up earlier than usual, and when I tried to look for her, she was laying in the small log near the heating pad. She seemed asleep which I felt was unusual since she'd always be awake no matter what time it was if I were there looking for her. When I picked her up, she was so warm...too warm. Then, I noticed that she was dead. I screamed...why, why, why...over and over again. I cried so hard that my husband had to come home from work. I tried to think over and over again, what did I do wrong. Then it hit me...the heating pad. It burrowed deep onto pad which was too hot for this specie. The under the tank heating pad likewise is too hot on the surface where an unsuspecting baby would want to burrow. The first few days, I didn't notice any change in the baby's behavior or eating, or drinking patterns. The only thing I recalled thinking was how she survived 4 months without the heating pad, and that I found her in the water pan late at night where she remained for several hours. It was only the next day that I found her dead. The saddest part of this is that I was about to return her back in the wild, which was my plan all along, because the dangers of frost is over here, and temps are climbing up.

Afterward, I went back to some of the posts where I read some would recommend using a heating pad for babies when it's cold. There was no one on any site to say DON'T EVER DO THAT!! There are other ways to heat up the room, and if you got a CHE (which I wish I had done) make sure its heat reaches only 60-70 degrees max. Never use a heating pad for babies because there's no way to set the temps, and they will burrow down to it, get dehydrated, and die of the heat. I wish I had learned about this before. Now, I only carry guilt for not knowing better. And the sting of death is oh, so painful! In a few days, she would have been free!
 

Thalatte

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RE: Beware of Heading Pads for Box Turtles

Additional warning: Anyone that uses a heating pad, either for adults or babies, should have them hooked up to a thermostat or rheostat this way you can control it. The device will allow it to heat up to a certain degree and then turn it off for awhile until it cools down at which point it will turn it back on. Or there are ones that dim the output so there is a constant small amount of electricity that keeps it at a lower heat.
Under tank heaters have been known to malfunction and heat up to over 100F. So always use with caution.
 

kjr153

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RE: Beware of Heading Pads for Box Turtles

Aw, I'm sorry for your loss. You were just doing what you thought was right. We all make mistakes. Hope you feel better soon.
 

DesertGrandma

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RE: Beware of Heading Pads for Box Turtles

Thanks for the post Sibi. It will help someone in the future. So sorry you had to learn it this way. ((HUGS))
 

Yvonne G

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RE: Beware of Heading Pads for Box Turtles

This is a real shame, Sylvia. I'm so sorry this happened.

Baby box turtles dehydrate VERY quickly. It was a combination of the dry heating pad, probably dry substrate, and a dry baby. I use a seed tray warmer inside my baby box turtle habitat. A seed tray warmer is a plastic sheet with heat coils inside. It is similar to a heating pad. The warmer is on the bottom of the habitat with substrate over it. The babies burrow down and sit right on the warmer. It is very important to keep a lot of water inside the habitat so the substrate doesn't have a chance to dry out. I pour a lot of water in there every morning. Plus, I soak the babies every day.

Don't beat yourself up over this. It's pretty hard to keep baby box turtles alive.
 

wellington

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RE: Beware of Heading Pads for Box Turtles

So sorry this happened. You tried, at least you tried. S/he probably wouldn't have lived this long if you didn't take her/him in.
 

terryo

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RE: Beware of Heading Pads for Box Turtles

I am so sorry. Things like this happen to all of us. Hatchlings are so hard to start out with for any one, and always remember that you tried your best.
 

sibi

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RE: Beware of Heading Pads for Box Turtles

Thank you all. The thing that keeps going over and over again in my mind is that for 4 months, she was growing and was happy. She ate so good, and she had all she needed to survive. I put in the heading pad, and in a week, she died. The substrate was moist in most places except near the pad. But she would sleep right on top of it the last couple of days. I never saw that coming.
 
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