Eastern box turtle advice needed, please.

Dblfam

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We have a turtle that we "rescued" about a year ago from someone that was not caring for him. The background we got on the turtle was pretty sparse. We were told that he was a “Russian” turtle, doesn’t hibernate, eats “whatever.” The turtle was kept on dry pea gravel with an incandescent light bulb. They originally had two turtles, and one died. I don’t know when.

So, here’s what I have gathered: Eastern Box turtle. Male. Did hibernate with us last fall (roughly November – March), and seemed to do well with it. He went from 359g to 340g while in hibernation. We live in a cold climate, so he needs to stay indoors. (I know this is not ideal. We have set up a temporary area outside for him on warm days, but this seems to stress him out. He just hides under a log or burrows in the grass.) We increased the size of his indoor living quarters and built him a dark/cool side he can burrow in, and keep it moist. On the bright/warm side, we have a incandescent light bulb for heat and a Reptisun UV bulb. He's back up to 349g since coming out of hibernation.

Our local vet said I was doing very well with the changes we’ve made, but she does not specialize in reptiles (and neither do any other vets within 50 miles of us). So, I am hoping you all could help with a few things:

I have no idea how old he is. Is there a way to tell? The people we got him from said they had him since he was a baby, but they didn't know exactly how long they'd had him. If I had this info, should it influence how I care for him? He mostly eats protein (see below), which some books say is normal for a younger turtle. Is that true?

Isn't his beak too long? Feeding on slate is not making it go down. I’m nervous to clip or Dremel it. Be honest - would a nail file make a difference, or is that futile? Is the long beak a sign of dietary deficiency?

What about his toenails? I clipped one of the longest back nails, probably about 1mm last fall, and it bled. I can’t see the quicks. The front seem ok.

I’m frustrated with his eating habits. I see other box turtles in YouTube videos chowing down on salads of greens, fruit, protein. My guy will usually eat protein (earthworms, slugs, cooked beef or chicken), but even then, he doesn’t eat much. He almost always refuses vegetables (carrots, greens, cucumbers, etc.). He’s eaten some red bell pepper, blueberries, raspberries, and tomatoes on occasion. He won’t touch commercial box turtle pellets, which I only bought out of desperation. Yesterday, he played with an earthworm, but he didn’t eat it. It was like he was missing it when he tried to chomp down on it. That made me worry about his beak and ultimately prompted me to create this post. The temp on the warm side of his house is 80-85, depending on our inside house temp. Should I increase this to get him to eat? Or is it his beak? Or both?

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide! I am hoping to get this guy headed on the right track!

IMG_3484.JPG IMG_3487.JPG IMG_3486.JPG IMG_3485.JPG
 

Dblfam

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Thank you, Colleen!

That article is awesome, and we will try making this food mix for him.

Thank you also for commenting on the beak and nails. You confirmed my suspicions, but I've felt like I'm a bit alone in trying to help him. When we were approached about taking him, we hadn't seen him yet, and when we did, we could tell we had work ahead of us. I'll be honest, it's been more than we originally wanted, but we couldn't say no because we felt like he would die if we didn't get him out of there. He is already more active and looks better than when we got him. I know we still have work to do!

We live in rural Minnesota. I'm going to call some vets in the Minneapolis area to see who can help.

Thank you again!
 

Yvonne G

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Hi, and welcome to the Forum!

If you look at the nails in very bright light, out in the sun, you can see the line of blood inside the nail if you look from the underside. You can start by just clipping off a small bit of the tip, then next week clip off another small bit, etc. until you have them where they should be. You can also use the nail clipper on the beak, taking off a tiny bit at a time, not the whole overgrown area, just a tiny piece out of it, moving around clip, clip, clipping until you have it shorter.
 

Dblfam

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Thanks, Yvonne!

Ah, look at the underside of the nail. Thank you! I would not have thought that! I think I will give the nail trimming a shot again. Even though I did a bad job on my first try, I've cut many pet nails before, and I feel like this is something I could do! I also am waiting on a call back from a vet regarding the beak trim. Perhaps I could manage that as well, but I would love to see a professional do it first.
 

Rachael403

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Im sure it is very hard for him to eat anything with the beak the way it is... Im sure he can only eat soft foods. The first thing is to get the beak and nails trimmed... then after that work on the diet. To get one of my kids that had never had greens in her life (no joke) I got her started on a proper diet by putting the worms/bugs/ sometimes mealworms(as a treat) in with the fresh dandelion greens and sweet potato. Her eyes got SO wide when she got a bite of sweet potato and greens the first time. She was hooked not long after that on whatever I put in front of her. Give it time, you will get your boy on the right track!
 

Dblfam

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Thanks for the encouragement and tips, Rachael!

I'm really hoping this vet will see him. No call back, so I will follow up tomorrow and try another place if they won't do the beak.

I'm also excited to see his "personality" after the beak trim and getting some good food in him! I know a good meal always makes me feel better.

This probably sounds dumb, but I don't even really know where his beak is supposed to be, so I am really interested to see that as well. I could just tell comparing to pictures that it kind of hangs down and shouldn't.
 

Loohan

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He looks a bit old to not be eating veggies.
I have read (on this board) and it seems plausible, that excess beak and nail growth can be caused by excess protein.
 

Dblfam

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After vet visit pic! (He's not too happy, so this is the best pic I could get.) Vet said that he has a bit of a deformity, not just "normal" overgrowth. He's also underweight (not suprised), so I will be working on chopping and mixing using the advice above and his instructions (all very similar). The vet said most turtles with his past don't recover, and will live short lives. I'm still optimistic, but I think he was preparing us for the worst, which of course was hard to hear after he's come so far already. IMG_3493.JPG
 

Loohan

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I watched part of a vid yesterday entitled
"how to get your box turtle to eat veggies"

If you're impatient like me, skip to 4:16. She uses sleight of hand to trick a baby boxie into eating apple and lettuce.
Not sure how well it would work on an older boxie.
 

ColleenT

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he looks a lot better. Good Luck!! I give my guys the veggie mix with Omega One Turtle pellets(softened) but i also give them worms. That way i know they are at least gettig something.
 

lisa127

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He looks a bit old to not be eating veggies.
I have read (on this board) and it seems plausible, that excess beak and nail growth can be caused by excess protein.
I would imagine that would be rare in boxies. More than half their diet should be protein.
 

lisa127

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After vet visit pic! (He's not too happy, so this is the best pic I could get.) Vet said that he has a bit of a deformity, not just "normal" overgrowth. He's also underweight (not suprised), so I will be working on chopping and mixing using the advice above and his instructions (all very similar). The vet said most turtles with his past don't recover, and will live short lives. I'm still optimistic, but I think he was preparing us for the worst, which of course was hard to hear after he's come so far already. View attachment 209372
He's beautiful! I've seen boxies in much worse shape. He can live a happy life with proper care. If he's eating any veghies/fruit consider yourself lucky. Boxies love their protein! 50 to 60 percent of their diet should be protein anyway, even for adults.
 
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