captive box turtles in the great outdoors

Barber25

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The EBT we have was supposed to be a juvenile when I purchased it about 4 months ago. It was larger than I anticipated, so I wondered a little about its background....how old was it? Had it been raised in captivity with constant human interaction, or perhaps wild caught? It always seemed skittish to me, but the numerous experts cautioned that even a turtle raised completely around humans could just be this way. I let her wander around outside, with some supervision from time to time, but she basically would just freeze if I was anywhere around, and make a break for it if I moved out of sight. I had an outdoor enclosure that I would put her in for several hours a day, and it was always then an adventure for me to find her to bring her back into her indoor enclosure. Over the last week, I had to clean out her box, and I decided to paint the wooden surfaces as there always seemed to be some mildew, and dark splotches on the bottom of the box. I bought some whey based stain, and figured I would need a few days to paint, and then let it completely dry. Since its been about 90 degrees I decided to give her a grand adventure and put her in a garden area that has turned into a jungle, and leave her there for several days, including , for the first time, being outside overnight. This enclosure is at least 3 times the size of the normal outdoor enclosure, and is chockful of thousands of plants/weeds/lettuce and other crops grown out of control. She's been out there for about 4 days, and its going to be quite an adventure for me to find her! My questions are: will she be terrified of not having her usual snug overnight lodging indoors, or will she be overjoyed at finally "escaping"? will a captive EBT turtle, who always has had food plopped right in front of her be able to forage on her own? Will the change from a climate controlled enclosure to the real world be a shock? Its been down to probably mid to perhaps low 60's at night. I have left her water trough and have turned on the sprinkler from time to time to cool things off. I'm sure she'll do just fine, but I am curious about the thoughts of others. I'll know more Saturday...if she hasn't outsmarted me once again--and is never found!
 

mark1

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they're meant to be outdoors ... is the enclosure escape proof ? even if it was a wild caught turtle , a lot of relocated turtles do not do well ........ they'll be needing to find a spot to hibernate within the next couple months ...... if you can't find her , and the enclosure is escape proof , provide her a GOOD spot to hibernate ........ hatchling turtles that survive honestly get lucky ...... then they start developing habits that increases their luck , the older , longer they survive, the less luck is involved .....
 

Barber25

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they're meant to be outdoors ... is the enclosure escape proof ? even if it was a wild caught turtle , a lot of relocated turtles do not do well ........ they'll be needing to find a spot to hibernate within the next couple months ...... if you can't find her , and the enclosure is escape proof , provide her a GOOD spot to hibernate ........ hatchling turtles that survive honestly get lucky ...... then they start developing habits that increases their luck , the older , longer they survive, the less luck is involved .....
Im hoping its escape proof! I have checked the perimeter and I dont see any potential openings. I tried to find her yesterday--no luck, but its pretty dense with a lot of hiding places...I'm going to have to pull alot of plants and it could take hours. I know she's very elusive. After observing just how stealthy she is, I now feel there are many times there could be box turtles in close proximity in the wild, and the people around would never know.
 

mark1

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Forgot the pics
The sentry, the turtle enclosure, and the overgrown garden
should be fine in there forever , i'd personally want to know she's moving around drinking and eating .....you don't need to clear the whole thing out , thin out a quarter or half , they do like to come out in the open at times , put a large clay plant saucer near the edge of the clear spot and the overgrown spot ............. clear out a south facing corner , loosen the soil in the corner down about a foot break it up real good , put a pile of grass clipping on top of it , you just may see her sitting on top sunning herself on a sunny morning , or a hole in the grass where she went in ...... come fall pile it up with leaves ....... doesn't need to be a big area , i've hibernated 7 juveniles in a 3foot by 3foot corner since i found them 3-4 yrs ago , they know right where to go every fall ....... make sure it don't flood in the winter , if the soil isn't diggable , ammend it so it is .... if you use the same spot year after year , the grass and leaves break down and the soil becomes perfect .......
 

Barber25

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should be fine in there forever , i'd personally want to know she's moving around drinking and eating .....you don't need to clear the whole thing out , thin out a quarter or half , they do like to come out in the open at times , put a large clay plant saucer near the edge of the clear spot and the overgrown spot ............. clear out a south facing corner , loosen the soil in the corner down about a foot break it up real good , put a pile of grass clipping on top of it , you just may see her sitting on top sunning herself on a sunny morning , or a hole in the grass where she went in ...... come fall pile it up with leaves ....... doesn't need to be a big area , i've hibernated 7 juveniles in a 3foot by 3foot corner since i found them 3-4 yrs ago , they know right where to go every fall ....... make sure it don't flood in the winter , if the soil isn't diggable , ammend it so it is .... if you use the same spot year after year , the grass and leaves break down and the soil becomes perfect .......
Thank you for the detailed information. I will make another attempt to find her tomorrow. Assuming I do find her, I will then decide to leave her there, or perhaps bring her back to the box for a few months--either way, I will make all the recommended changes to prepare for hibernation.
 
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Hi, yes Box Turtles hide so well!
it is hard to believe especially with colorful patterns on carapace but you don’t see them unless they are out in open.
If your garden box is made of material with rough surface, like wood, make sure to put something over four corners because turtles will try to climb until one day they succeed.
 

Barber25

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this garden has a mesh wire fence probably 4 ft tall..so climbing not possible, but I know the fact its see through is not good. It was supposed to be temporary, but its been over a week. There was a frog sitting in the water dish a few days ago, so I think if the frog found it, the turtle should too. does anyone know if they have a special skill in sending a water source, or is it just memory? There has been something chewing on some tomatoes, so Im hoping if nothing else, the food sources are a source of water as well.
 

PJay

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Box turtles are surprisingly good climbers. They can scale a chain length fence or use a 90 degree corner to climb up and over wood walls. It will find the water as it explores.
 

Barber25

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I've even heard rumors that they sometimes cajole birds into transporting them over barriers to freedom! The plot is certainly starting to thicken, and its already at the consistency of turtle soup. Has anyone utilized one of these small transmitters that can be glued to the shell? I dont think its possible for my particular turtle to escape, due to the top board of the fence, which would require her to hang upside down and climb around and over it. But I do see and believe that it might be possible to scale the wire fence. This weekend I will comb the entire enclosure. I am sure she's having alot of fun.
 

PJay

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Yeah, an overhanging top board should do the trick. No turtle soup here.
 

Barber25

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This turtle loves to torment me! After a few weeks of roaming in the garden, with noone being able to find her, she appeared today. I put her in the small adjacent enclosure, and built her a watering pool out of a toboggan, and started on a mulch pile. After all my work, I went to retrieve her from the enclosure.........you guessed it-- nowhere to be found!
 

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Pastel Tortie

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This turtle loves to torment me! After a few weeks of roaming in the garden, with noone being able to find her, she appeared today. I put her in the small adjacent enclosure, and built her a watering pool out of a toboggan, and started on a mulch pile. After all my work, I went to retrieve her from the enclosure.........you guessed it-- nowhere to be found!
Sure sounds like a boxie to me! 😂
Super secret agent covert special ops turtles...
 

Barber25

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Sure sounds like a boxie to me! 😂
Super secret agent covert special ops turtles...
Sure sounds like a boxie to me! 😂
Super secret agent covert special ops turtles...
You are so right! All that work for her, amd the irony of her clamboring over the wall after I had been warned so many times! I just couldnt believe it, kept thinking "she's GOT to be here sonewhere!" I combed over every square inch at least 5 times...I had resigned myself to the fact she would be better off being free....and then....right when I had thrown in the towel...I looked under a little log...and there she was! Back to the garden for another stint and to try out the new pool. Something tells me the saga will have further twists and turns!
 

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Barber25

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they're meant to be outdoors ... is the enclosure escape proof ? even if it was a wild caught turtle , a lot of relocated turtles do not do well ........ they'll be needing to find a spot to hibernate within the next couple months ...... if you can't find her , and the enclosure is escape proof , provide her a GOOD spot to hibernate ........ hatchling turtles that survive honestly get lucky ...... then they start developing habits that increases their luck , the older , longer they survive, the less luck is involved .....
We are getting close to colder weather, so some final questions on preparing for outdoor hibernation...

being in the Saginaw, Michigan area, ive got to be at the northern edge of the habitat zone for EBT..I'm assuming therefore that the margin for error is small regarding hibernation spot preparation and severity of the winter (?)

i did loosen the soil as you had suggested, about a 3 by 3 ft area, going down about a foot, then I mounded up a small hill with five 40 lb bags of topsoil, and then covered that with grass clippings. i saw a video where someone was creating brushpiles of leafed branches about 4 by 4 ft. , 2 feet tall, to encourage as a hibernation zone. have you heard of this. ? i think of sub zero temps and snow drifts, and I'd rather err to the side of more protection.

i'm also assuming that even if a turtle was captive hatched and raised, and never hibernated, it would instinctively know what to do. (?)

since it's my first winter with her and because I didnt ever plan on a hibernation, Im a little apprehensive, ...it would be horrible if she never appeared in the spring!
 

mark1

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i loosen the soil down a 12-15" , i use grass clippings first , early fall , attracts them to the spot ...... when the leaves come down i cover everything in leaves , lots of leaves , brush on top , and more leaves , by the the time it's real cold i got easily 2 feet of leaves ...... when it turns real cold , stretches of below zero , single digit temps , here would be january , february , i throw a tarp over the whole pile of grass leaves and brush , i do pull the tarp back open if we get any unusually sunny warm weather .... brush over the leaves creates air spaces , with a tarp over everything it's pretty good insulation ...... snow cover is good , i put the tarp right over the snow if possible , more snow on the tarp , insulated as good as or better than anything they could possibly find on their own , you don't want a tarp over it all winter , just for the really cold stretches , left covered for the whole winter makes it to dry , rain and snow melt keep it moist ...... i only use a tarp for the extreme temp stretches ......

they naturally know what to do , the hatchlings here need no help figuring it out ...... i don't believe it's a narrow margin of error , i think we can provide a better spot for them to hibernate than most of them ever find in the wild ...........

you need a spot that doesn't flood , but you really don't want a hump of soil to much above the natural ground , that hump will freeze before the ground level dirt ........

if you ever see her out put her in the hibernating spot , i make sure everybody is in the leaf pile by the time it gets real cold , ...... i have never lost a box turtle to hibernating in probably 20yrs , 20times , that includes some yearlings i have found and left out after one winter in the house ..... they use to get nothing but loosened soil , grass and a leaf pile .....
 

Barber25

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i loosen the soil down a 12-15" , i use grass clippings first , early fall , attracts them to the spot ...... when the leaves come down i cover everything in leaves , lots of leaves , brush on top , and more leaves , by the the time it's real cold i got easily 2 feet of leaves ...... when it turns real cold , stretches of below zero , single digit temps , here would be january , february , i throw a tarp over the whole pile of grass leaves and brush , i do pull the tarp back open if we get any unusually sunny warm weather .... brush over the leaves creates air spaces , with a tarp over everything it's pretty good insulation ...... snow cover is good , i put the tarp right over the snow if possible , more snow on the tarp , insulated as good as or better than anything they could possibly find on their own , you don't want a tarp over it all winter , just for the really cold stretches , left covered for the whole winter makes it to dry , rain and snow melt keep it moist ...... i only use a tarp for the extreme temp stretches ......

they naturally know what to do , the hatchlings here need no help figuring it out ...... i don't believe it's a narrow margin of error , i think we can provide a better spot for them to hibernate than most of them ever find in the wild ...........

you need a spot that doesn't flood , but you really don't want a hump of soil to much above the natural ground , that hump will freeze before the ground level dirt ........

if you ever see her out put her in the hibernating spot , i make sure everybody is in the leaf pile by the time it gets real cold , ...... i have never lost a box turtle to hibernating in probably 20yrs , 20times , that includes some yearlings i have found and left out after one winter in the house ..... they use to get nothing but loosened soil , grass and a leaf pile .....
alot to digest! thanks for all the info....by accident, without knowing or trying, i may have created some good hibernation stations over the years (if there are any turtles on the loose on my property) I did find a wood turtle a few years back
 

Blackdog1714

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That sounds awesome. Create staions for them to live in and grow them food, WATCH them but don't have to buy. Just enjoy nature. WOW all I get are 4 legged rodents of varying sizes
 

Barber25

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That sounds awesome. Create staions for them to live in and grow them food, WATCH them but don't have to buy. Just enjoy nature. WOW all I get are 4 legged rodents of varying sizes
it is an interesting concept...but I have found them to be much more elusive and secretive than we realize...i wonder about these mini transmitters that can be glued to the shell..im sure theres some pros/cons to that i havent considered...you could track their whereabouts on a grid...hmmm would be interesting re. potential rescues if there were fires or a 500 year flood like we had hear this past May
 

jeff kushner

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Barber25, if you adapt the device to your buddy, you will take out all the fun of trying to find them!

I live now, about 3 miles from where I grew up. My only issue with keeping them outside over the years is that now, with loss of habitat, seems like we have a lot more predators in neighborhoods than we used to when the animals had room to prowl away from people. I kept a bunch of large wild-caught adults outside a few years ago till they began disappearing one at a time. I released the rest.....rather than me keeping them becoming their death sentence. I assumed it was a racoon. Since then, I've dabbled with NV tech and bought a Russian surplus NV (night vision) scope and monocular.....it's pretty amazing the selection of creatures...deer of course, racoons, possums, grey and red fox and believe it or not coyotes...not 12 miles from Baltimore.

jeff
 
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