captive box turtles in the great outdoors

Barber25

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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
It is kind of fun to try to find them...but very challenging. Inside the garden enclosure, I would let her be, but as a backup plan to ultimately find them, its an interesting idea. (the tracking device) The rest of the ten acres, it would be fun to do a little research--would they use the brush piles? would they stay around? they are just so elusive, I dont think you would ever know they are around. I would love to know they are out and about, and thriving on my property. regarding predators, my trail cam lets me know there are some very well fed raccoons that resemble small bears, some very robust coyotes with the most luxurious pelts I have ever seen, tons of opossums, and a massive bald eagle that showed up to feast on a deer carcass. Oh, I even saw what I think was a bobcat, and foxes too. Wouldnt box turtles have better defenses against most predators? (being able to close up entirely in the shell) I chose to get a box turtle because I found them in my yard in NJ in my youth, and I wanted something that would be native to my locale--would basically limit me to Box turtles and wood turtles? It seems "tortoises" outnumber box turtles as "pets" on this forum about 30 to one. Am I correct in assuming the tortoises are more active and visible than the box turtles?
 

jeff kushner

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The Bluetooth enabled tracking chips are small and only connect when a BT signal is close. With an overlay map, you could make a cool project out of it!

jeff
 

Barber25

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The Bluetooth enabled tracking chips are small and only connect when a BT signal is close. With an overlay map, you could make a cool project out of it!

jeff
i picture a large grid on the wall with red tracking lights--would be interesting! if it's satellite based, then being underground would stop the signal...but it would allow the last location to be located, i would think?
 

Blackdog1714

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i picture a large grid on the wall with red tracking lights--would be interesting! if it's satellite based, then being underground would stop the signal...but it would allow the last location to be located, i would think?
OMG I would immediately overlay a piece of plexiglass with the Pac-Man maze drawn on it!
 

Barber25

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I have piled grass clippings, brush and branches, leaves, and then a huge pile of ornamental grasses I clipped...I was going to ask if there was a danger (with this huge pile on top of the hibernation spot) if there was a danger of the turtle not getting air, or perhaps becoming trapped, but after rereading the suggestions to pile up everything, and even use a tarp, I would guess those arent real concerns. I hope I wasnt too early creating these piles, but we've dipped down below 30 a few times, so I think my timing was alright.
 

Barber25

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Well, the temperature was close to 70 this past weekend, so I was getting curious to see if my box turtle had survived the winter. I had created three brush piles, and had some ideas as to where she might have dug a burrow. I carefully raked off the sticks and grass and leaves from the 3 piles, expecting to find a hole (but I wasnt sure if they normally "close off the hole". Nothing under the first two piles, ...but under the third pile, I could see about half the shell sticking out of the ground. I was concerned...could she have possibly survived single digit temperatures without burrowing into the ground? Would the brush pile have generated enough heat and protection over the winter? I didnt want to disturb her, so i carefully replaced the pile. When does a box turtle usually begin to move around? Is it normal to not dig down in the soil? Ive got to believe they instinctively know what to do.
 

Relic

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Well, the temperature was close to 70 this past weekend, so I was getting curious to see if my box turtle had survived the winter. I had created three brush piles, and had some ideas as to where she might have dug a burrow. I carefully raked off the sticks and grass and leaves from the 3 piles, expecting to find a hole (but I wasnt sure if they normally "close off the hole". Nothing under the first two piles, ...but under the third pile, I could see about half the shell sticking out of the ground. I was concerned...could she have possibly survived single digit temperatures without burrowing into the ground? Would the brush pile have generated enough heat and protection over the winter? I didnt want to disturb her, so i carefully replaced the pile. When does a box turtle usually begin to move around? Is it normal to not dig down in the soil? Ive got to believe they instinctively know what to do.
I think they dig "down" as little as is required for survival. We tend to think as warm-blooded creatures - we want to be comfortable. I think these inscrutable box turtles only care about survival. If their internal temps stay a half-degree above freezing, why should they bother to dig down any further? Just wasted energy. I've accidentally uncovered box turtles while cleaning up the pen in winter, often surprised at just how shallowly they have sheltered under thin layers of loose leaves - even after brutal cold spells. I strongly suspect if their blood was carefully analyzed, one would find strong traces of ethylene glycol...

Mine usually venture out in the upper 40's/low 50's on sunny, late February/early March days, but I've seen some tough old soldiers wandering around when it's still in the 30's...I theorize they are trying to be the first to find early-rising females.
 

Barber25

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hmmmm...very interesting. So, perhaps she has been moving around already under the pile? There seemed to be some mouse nests or something in balls of grass clippings, and also alot of green new shoots under the pile, so maybe it was warmer there than I thought ! But it does concern me that it appeared she had not moved, despite the warm temps. At this point, I will just leave her alone, and we'll see what happens.
 

Relic

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hmmmm...very interesting. So, perhaps she has been moving around already under the pile? There seemed to be some mouse nests or something in balls of grass clippings, and also alot of green new shoots under the pile, so maybe it was warmer there than I thought ! But it does concern me that it appeared she had not moved, despite the warm temps. At this point, I will just leave her alone, and we'll see what happens.
Honestly, I've picked-up and examined box turtles I've inadvertently exposed during the winter. They respond to being handled: open eyes, move legs a bit, etc., and then I return them to their chosen spot and recover them. I seriously doubt it harms them, and if you are past freezing weather I can't see the problem. Most of mine are stirring now (often just coming out, finding a sunny spot, and sitting for hours) and usually heading for the little concrete pool for a deep drink and usually a nice soak, too. I suspect it happens in their natural state that occasionally they are disturbed or uprooted and they deal with it as seems best. They are tough and resilient creatures, frequently outliving their caretakers, despite our husbandry mishaps with their care.
 

mark1

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the building code frostline where i live is 32" , the average frost line here is 15"-20" , i've never seen a form where an eastern box turtle has dug down more than 6-7" ...... i'm pretty sure they can and do endure temperatures below freezing regularly ....... i have to think they ahave to be able to be partially frozen at times , we've had some winters here where that 32" inch frostline i'm sure was approached ......... it was 80 today all but two of my box turtles were at the top , i dug up the two remaining , soaked them all and stuck them back in the leaf pile right before dark ...........they all looked great , all the males eyes were flaming red , brighter than any other time of year ...... ..........
 

Barber25

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She thanks you for the compliment...and of course has disappeared back beneath a brush pile
 

boxiemomma

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@Barber25 - I am curious if you hibernated outside last year and if so what the outcome was? Has your turt emerged yet, how is she/he? Did it get very cold there?

*****UPDATE**** should have gone to page 2, she/he made it :) yay!!!
 

Barber25

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@Barber25 - I am curious if you hibernated outside last year and if so what the outcome was? Has your turt emerged yet, how is she/he? Did it get very cold there?

*****UPDATE**** should have gone to page 2, she/he made it :) yay!!!
It got down to near zero...I was very concerned. When I carefully raked off the brush pile, I found her only about an inch or so into the dirt.

I pulled her out for a soak, she ate a worm, (looked pretty robust and healthy)and then quickly sauntered back under the pile. Its been in the 20's the last two nights, so I dont expect alot of activity til next month.
 

jeff kushner

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Wow....I grew up in Ann Arbor, we did not have box turtles and you are 100 miles straight North! Wow, excellent and very happy your little guy emerged!!

jeff
 
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