Is this an Eastern Box? Newly adopted.

Erik Kettenburg

New Member
Apr 16, 2015
I have been a long time turtle/tortoise fan - but did not ever adopt one as I wanted to ensure my life was stable enough to support such a wonderful creature.

Yesterday, the attached turtle walked into my now very stable (wife, kid, small farm and lots of animal experience) life - literally - he was in our driveway and it was 39 degrees out. We called our neighbors who seem to adopt everything they can find on craigslist and sure enough it was theirs. I suppose my discontent was a bit obvious when they picked him up from us, and while I won't pretend to know much about turtles - I did know something wasn't right about him being outside when it's 39 degrees, had just hailed, and he was about 2000ft from their home. They promised to keep him inside and gave the whole story of how he got there:

They had adopted him from a friend they worked with who no longer wanted him and when they got him he was in a dirty tank in the people's garage. When those people had him he had been run over by a car, which caused shell damaged and crushed a front leg. Some nice vet told the people he'd amputate the leg and fix him up for free just to see him live on. That's all the background they seemed to have.

They adopted him, and left him set up as he was with the previous people - which is a glass aquarium (60 gal) with tons of big rocks and a heating pad under a plastic box acting as a hide. That's it - no heat lamps, no substrate. They were also feeding him the food he came with - my wife quickly discovered this was floating pellets for aquatic turtles. In addition they were feeding him scrambled eggs, strawberries, yogurt, tomatoes and bananas - and I imagine other random veggies.

As to how he came to my property: They said in February after they had him for awhile there was a nice day (so they thought - Feb peaked at about 50 degrees in the sun out here) so they set him on the lawn (amongst their chickens, geese, turkeys, and dogs), they came back 20 minutes later and he was gone. They seemed very surprised that a three legged turtle could get away that fast. That was the last they saw him until I found him in my driveway yesterday! There is a small wooded area between our property and theirs - so I wonder (without having a clue what I'm talking about) if he dug down in there for warmth and possibly hibernated for a few months?

So that's his/her background.

They named it RickyBobby because it was so fast on three legs - we're working on a new name that better reflects how sweet and special he/she seems to be.

I asked if they new what kind of box turtle/tortoise it was - they said they were pretty sure it was a "box" turtle. So I guess they have no idea.

My uneducated guess is that it is either an Easter Box or an Ornate Box - can anyone confrim, deny, or tell me what kind it is so I can make sure I give it the exact proper care instead?

Can anyone guess if it is male or female? I tried looking if the bottom side was concave or not - it seems maybe slightly so, but its a bit skewed due to underside of the shell sloping towards the crushed leg.

Here is what we are doing for it so far (all ordered overnight, to arrive tomorrow, as we are in the country and have no pet store near):

Its an average of 45 outside in spring here and usually under 60 in summer - so we're building him an indoor enclosure with time outside whenever possible.
I have a very large rubbermaid (from our horse tack) about 4-5ft by 2.5ft that I plan to place in a warm room (my office) which stays at least 60 at night and gets a fair amount of outside light.

I've ordered Exo Terra Plantation Soil, Exo Terra Forest Plue Moss, and Exo Terra Coco Husk to mix together based on what I've read here and elsewhere. My understanding is it should mostly be the Plantation Soil with a good amount of moss, some moss in a corner for cooling, and some coco husk on top? 3-4" deep total?

Soaking: I ordered an extra large zoo med water dish. Currently he had a plastic container he could hardly get into, so I'm placing him in it, water about 1/3 up his shell, twice a day until he tries to get out, then I help him out. He seems to be enjoying it, stick his head under, move around in it, and is generally more active afterward.

Humidity: I've ordered a zoo med fogger and zoo med hygrotherm controller - and will set them to the proper humidity once I confirm what that is based on what type he is?

Light: Ordered a zoomed reptisun 5.0 and a timer controller to put it on a day time only schedule.

Heat: Ordered a 100W red heat lamp (plan to plug this into the hygrotherm controller too - and set to the right temps - day and night - for his type). I did not get a basking light as I read that he probably would not like something that bright if he is an eastern - is that right? Will 100w be enough in a 60 degree room (using a zoo med mini combo deep fixture)? I, of course, plan to pull the heat pad out and do away with it - as I hear those are not for turtles (I've raised crested geckos before and used them in the winder).

Food: Reading up on this still, so far we've offered him some cut up yellow squash, kiwi, banana, and tomato, and some dark greens - he only ate the tomato. I know that isn't a good diet - any suggestions welcome - but once I know his type I plan to create a feeding schedule/diet and order him some protein (circkets, mealworms, superworms, something else?). I've also ordered some zoo med box turtle food to supplement with and some Zoo Med Reptile Calcium with Vitamin D3 to dust food with.

Vet: Still trying to find one that isn't too far and knows anything about turtles - but I plan to take him for a visit to one soon.

Sorry that's a novel for a first time poster - but I'd greatly appreciate any help in making sure this guy/girl gets every chance at a better life. Any suggestions are most, most welcome and appreciated - and most of all any help in identifying his type so I know I am at least using the right care sheets would be great!

Images of him/her attached - including one that shows his horrible current habitat

Thank you,

IMG_0814.JPG IMG_0815.JPG
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Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Jan 23, 2008
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
Hi Erik, and welcome to the Forum!

I tend to skim, so I probably missed the part where you told us how you came to be able to keep the turtle???

I think it's probably a female, and it does look like an eastern to me. Here's a link to a good care sheet for box turtles:

Erik Kettenburg

New Member
Apr 16, 2015
Thank you both! And thank you for the welcome!

How we came to keep him - I guess I left that out! - I guess my obvious discomfort with his care sunk in a bit and/or they realized we really liked him and they weren't "reptile people" as they put it. Regardless of why - about two hours after we returned him to the neighbors they sent us a text that they'd be happy to give him to us if we wanted a to care for him! My wife, knowing by the turtle posters, books, sculptures, etc around the house that I'd always wanted a turtle look at me and basically said "Go say yes!" and we let them know we'd be overjoyed to have him and give him a good home.

Sounds like he is almost certainly an eastern box turtle - I think he is quite a beautifully colored one - which is why I was doubting my guess, I couldn't find many photos of them with so much coloring on the neck/head.

Thank you both - I will provide for him assuming he is an eastern box turtle and confirm everything with a good turtle vet once I find one.

Thank you Yvonne for the caresheet link as well - my wife and I have been studying that one already so its good to hear its a good one to use!

Is there any special care I need to take in regard to his shell damage?

Dean Wirth

Mar 11, 2015
Location (City and/or State)
Not to worry just to avoid infection rub some aloe on the shell to clean it every few days. My male Pugsley (my avatar is Gamera btw) had some nicks and similar scarring and now after six years the nicks are still there but the scarring is mostly healed. If your turtle sheds a lot the marks will go, unfortunately Pugsley doesn't seem to shed any scales. If it is infected it will spread, but I wouldn't worry. It just adds character.

Eric Zukowski

Mar 27, 2015
Male eastern box turtle and a very nice colored one. I hope you give it the life it should have.

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