Found Tortoise (NW Washington State), advice greatly appreciated

Ianverm

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Hello all,

My wife discovered a tortoise in our garden about a half hour ago. We live in NW Washington, so this is obviously someones pet (ie. not a wild tortoise). While we are searching for the owner, could anybody ID this guy for us and provide advice on how to keep him/her happy and safe for the time being. Water was already provided. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

And by some small chance: we are in the Columbia neighborhood of Bellingham. I remember seeing "lost tortoise" signs around our house over a month ago. Unfortunately the signs have been down for a while... Anyone here lose a tortoise in Bellingham?

A photo is provided.

Thanks,
Ian
 

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MPRC

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You've got a turtle, not a tortoise, I'll let someone chime in on the exact kind.

I'd post a Craigslist ad (without a picture, ask for a description) and see if you can find the owner that way. Also ask local pet stores and vet clinics if they might still have the flier in their office.
 

Ianverm

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Hah, stupid me! Thanks for the response. We will be posting to craigslist soon here, as well as posting a few fliers around the neighborhood.
 

wellington

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It is a Box turtle. Are you sure they are not native? If it is, please release it where you found it. If it's not native, they eat bugs, also, some greens, but not sure what kind. They need high humidity and leaf litter or dirt is a good ground cover for them and they need water to drink and get into.
@Yvonne G @terryo can help you further.
 

Ianverm

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This is why I posted here, clearly I have no knowledge of turtles/tortoises. Cannot even tell the difference! Thank you for the info. We have not moved it, only given it some water. It could be native, but we are in the middle of a developed neighborhood. I have no idea how it could have gotten to our house.
 

domalle

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Hello all,

My wife discovered a tortoise in our garden about a half hour ago. We live in NW Washington, so this is obviously someones pet (ie. not a wild tortoise). While we are searching for the owner, could anybody ID this guy for us and provide advice on how to keep him/her happy and safe for the time being. Water was already provided. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

And by some small chance: we are in the Columbia neighborhood of Bellingham. I remember seeing "lost tortoise" signs around our house over a month ago. Unfortunately the signs have been down for a while... Anyone here lose a tortoise in Bellingham?

A photo is provided.

Thanks,
Ian
It is a box turtle not a tortoise. But your intuition is correct. It has an overgrown beak and nails which indicates it is an escaped pet.
The colors are muted which suggest it is of some age and has been around awhile.
Also makes it hard to identify with certainty from the photo.
Box turtles are omnivores so you can feed it a variety of foods.
Earthworms are appreciated as are berries.
And thank you for going out of your way for this lost creature.
 
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wellington

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Oh, you probably wouldn't believe how far they can travel and some of the places they will end up. Why? Who knows.:D

It's hard to say if that map is accurate. When I googled box turtles native to Washington state, it came up with all kinds of box turtles, but then the links show all turtles.

Hang on and the people I alerted might know,the answer and they will be able to better help with its care. In the mean time, maybe try to confine it from wondering away incase it isn't native. For now if you have a box you could put it in for e night. Give it some dirt or weeds to cover up in until you can get it figured out for sure.
 

wellington

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Okay, great, leigti answered that the same time I was posting. So, please take it in and try to find its owner. Anyone new move into the neighborhood? Possibly theirs. Other boxie owners will chime in and help you too.
 
M

Maggie Cummings

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The only turtles native to the PNW are Pacific Pond Turtles and Western Painted turtles, and both are threatened species because of RES and loss of habitat. You have an Eastern box turtle native to the North East and Midwest (not sure about the Mid West). They eat fruit, worms, crickets, most bugs actually, berries, cantaloupe and that's all I can think of right now. Your guy has an awfully long beak, it may be hard for him to eat. But he'd LOVE some night crawlers....3 should do it...
 
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Maggie Cummings

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It is an Eastern box turtle. The only natives to the PNW are the Pacific Pond turtle and the Western Painted turtle. Both are threatened species due to RES and loss of habitat. It is against the law to own RES in Oregon.
If you can't find the owner your box turtle likes worms bugs crickets, and fruit, cantaloupe, berries, and other stuff I can remember now. But google Eastern Box turtle and see what you come up with. Good luck with it, keep us posted.
 

Angel Carrion

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Yup, eastern box turtle. Overgrown beak and nails implies time in captivity, possibly long term or life. The colors seem strange to me, would you be able to take more pictures? Head shot, plastron, tail, feet, and one from above?
Looks like there is also shell damage of some kind, hard to tell.
The "bleeding out of colors" could imply older age, or could be from lack of proper UV light source.
 

Angel Carrion

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An indoor enclosure at least 12 inches deep with at least 12-13 square feet of floor space is best. Outdoor is even better.

Sphagnum moss and milled coconut husk fiber (coco fiber/coir) or peat moss mixed together is a good moisture retaining substrate. It needs to be about 6 inches deep throughout the enclosure. Humidity needs to be between 70-90% in the enclosure. Using an accurate hydrometer is the best way to measure the levels. Having a water dish under the heat lamp is a way to keep humidity up, just make sure the water doesn't get too hot for the turtle. The moistened substrate will also keep humidity up. The water dish needs to be big enough that the turtle can soak on his own, but shallow enough that he doesn't accidentally flip over while trying to climb in or out. Misting the enclosure is another good way to keep humidity up. If you do put the water dish under the heat lamp, don't put it directly under and make sure there is room under the heat lamp for her to bask as well.
Temp ranges; 80ish F on warm side, 70-75 F on cool side, 85-90 F for the basking spot. Nighttime temps should not go below 65 F.

Heat lamp UVA and a UVB bulb will be needed, or you can get a mercury vapor bulb which produces heat and UVB. If you get a heat lamp and UVB bulb separate of each other, make sure to not get a coil bulb. Those can damage turtle eyes and cause blindness. A UVB bulb should be replaced every 6 months, but a mercury vapor bulb can be replaced every 12-18 months. The lamps need to be 16-18 inches above turtle so as to avoid burning them.
Using a digital temp gun is most useful in reading the temps accurately. I got mine off amazon for 12-14 bucks.

Food items and how much
Animal matter: 50% of meal -- crickets, earthworms, feeder fish (not goldfish - may make them sick, like upset stomach or something), Dubai roaches (yum!), mealworms (as a treat), grasshoppers, sow bugs, katydids, isopods, june bugs, slugs (but not banana slugs), terrestrial snails, waxworms, various grubs, superworms (zoophobas), blood worms, carrion, beefheart, gastropods, spiders, cicadas, silkworms, millipedes, pill bugs, butterfly larvae, preying mantids (remove spiked forelegs first), boiled skinless chicken, boiled eggs with shell, cooked lean ground beef, nightcrawlers. Can feed a pinkie or fuzzy once a month. Freeze in freezer bag for 72 hours at least to kill any parasites. Thaw in tepid water before serving. Never use microwave to defrost! NEVER FEED EASTERN TENT CATERPILLARS
Vegetables: 20% of meal -- pretty much all squashes, bell peppers (not often), carrots, corn on the cob (boiled, not often), green beans, okra, opuntia cactus pad & fruit, peas in the pod, various pumpkins, sweet potatoes, zucchini.
Greens: 10% of meal -- bibb, various kinds of clover, collard greens, dandelion greens & weeds, escarole, kale (not often), mustard greens, red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, turnip greens, watercress, pesticide-free field-collected weeds & leaves (I suggest only picking those you can identify).
Fruits: 10% of meal -- apples, apricot, figs, banana (mainly as a treat), all berries, grapes, kiwi, all melons, peach, plum, tomatoes (never feed any other part of the tomato plant- not safe)
Fungi/mushrooms: 10% of meal -- chanterelle, fried-chicken mushrooms (yeah, that's a thing), meadow, morel, oyster, puffball, russulas, shaggy inkcap. (Yes those are all different mushrooms). Do not offer Portabello mushrooms. Can't remember why.

Once a week, lightly dust meal with a calcium supplement with Vitamin D3 and a vitamin supplement. I use Rep-Cal Phosphorus-free Calcium with Vitamin D3 (the phosphorus-free info is important) and ZooMed's Reptivite. Leaving a cuttlebone in the enclosure will give the turtle the opportunity to free-serve calcium as they need
Do not offer cat food as most commercial cat foods produce acidic urine, which will increase the excretion of calcium in the urine.This can and most likely will cause a calcium deficiency in reptiles and can lead to metabolic bone disease, shell deformities, and soft tissue calcification. Using a low-fat wet dog food can be done if the turtle will not eat anything you offer to entice them to start eating.

Dealing with a reluctant eater: Box turtles are most active in the mornings, evenings, and after it rains. Try misting the enclosure before feeding & offer meals in the morning after the turtle has had time to warm up but before the day becomes too hot. If the turtle continues to not eat, try overripe brightly colored fruits like strawberries and cantaloupe (those are my guys favorites) and bananas. Also, turtles are naturally attracted to moving food. If your turtle will only eat live foods, try cutting up a nightcrawler or two and mixing it with some veggies and fruits so that the wiggling in and on the meal will attract them. As they try to eat the nightcrawler, they will likely accidentally grab the greens and such. After doing this for a while, reduce the amount of nightcrawlers until the box turtle consistently eats the veggies and greens.

How to get shy turtles out to eat: feed underneath foliage and keep activity in the area to a minimum as much as possible while eating.
Be sure to offer a wide variety and change things up. Turtles become bored being offered the same foods every meal.

Feeding frequency:
Hatchling to 1 year old, or underweight turtle - one to two days
one to three years old, or recovering from illness - two to three days
three years and older - three to four days
overweight - four days

Feed on a flat plate, plastic lid, flat rock, or paper plate. Be warned: turtles may try to eat the paper plates. Flat rocks are best generally because the rock will help file the beak and keep the nails trim.

Gut-loading insects: Crickets and mealworms (and others) can be gut-loaded two days before use. Feed them a high-calcium invertebrate food - sweet potato, high quality tropical fish flake, or low fat dry dog food. To provide the insects with moisture and added nutrients that will be passed on to the turtle, offer the feeders leafy greens like turnip greens or dandelion greens.

All invertebrate food items (except earthworms) should be lightly dusted with the calcium supplement just before serving. You can do this by putting some of the supplement powder in a sandwich bag then put that meal's insects in, close the bag, and gently shake to coat them in the supplement. Place in front of the turtle. If the feeders are moving around too much, the dust will fall off. It is best to offer them using forceps or by incapacitating them while still being able to move enough to draw the turtle's attention.
Make sure to mist the enclosure at least once a day.
I think that's it right now unless you want me to go into medical stuff.
 

Ianverm

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Wow, thanks for all of the responses everyone! We will get him some berries and worms for now. We have him in a big kiddie pool that has some topsoil as a substrate and i put a shallow ~2-3" deep dish of water that it can get into and drink from, as well as a little box for him to hide in. I will post back when we get him/her back to the rightful owner.
 

Ianverm

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Whoa Angel, Thanks for the detailed response! I will try my best to follow your guidelines, but hope that the owner will contact us soon. If not, we will certainly implement your box turtle guidelines.
 

Angel Carrion

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Almost looks....sunburnt. I would suggest soaking in semi-warm water of about 85F (sounds hot, but put your hand in it, it surprisingly feels warmish instead of hot) for about 15-30 minutes. If she wants to soak longer, let her. Have the water level be to about where her marginal scutes are on either side of her (where her plastron meets her carapace).
I'm saying "she" and "her" because it looks like she has brown eyes which, while not 100%, usually indicate female in eastern box turtles.
 

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