How to Take Care of a Wild Turtle

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Caring for a wild turtle is an adventure for those willing to commit in terms of time, expense and diligence. Rescuing an injured or diseased turtle should only be accomplished by those who have learned to properly rehabilitate the reptile. Taking a turtle from its natural habitat to make a pet of it is frowned upon by wildlife experts and is illegal in some areas.

Things You'll Need

  • Grassy area
  • Solid fencing
  • Shallow dish
  • Piece of garden hose
  • Vegetable and strawberry seeds
  • Dedicate an area of your yard for the turtle's habitat. Even small turtles need a large space in which to dwell, at least a 6 x 6-foot enclosure. This needs to be a sunny area as turtles are cold blooded creatures. It is not recommended to keep a turtle indoors, but if you choose to do so you will need a large container, a substrate of natural material and a basking lamp.

  • Enclose the turtle's habitat with a solid fencing that is at least two feet in height. Turtles are surprisingly good climbers and exceptional escape artists.

  • Create a small pond within the habitat. A large plastic shallow dish works well. It is best to "sink" the dish so that the rim is level with the ground. Tilt the pond at a gentle angle and place a drainage hose at the base. Plug the hose after filling the pond. You will need to drain and refill the pond on a regular basis. Never fill the pond above the level of your turtle's dome height.

  • Provide hiding places for the turtle. Turtles like to hide and they need a place to get out of the sun when it becomes overbearing. Pieces of tree logs are excellent for this purpose. You may also wish to create dried mud caves for the turtle.

  • Plant greens and berries in the enclosure. Box turtles are omnivores who eat a majority of plant materials as well as some protein. Choose dark green vegetables like collards or turnips and cultivate strawberries in the habitat as well. Supplement your turtle's diet with live crickets and worms.

  • Introduce your turtle to a stable environment. Once you have your habitat complete you need to maintain it. Do not make big changes in the habitat as inconsistency is stressful to your reptile.

  • Take your turtle to a veterinarian experienced in reptile care. The vet will be able to treat common diseases in turtles and address any injuries which prompted you to remove the turtle from the wild. Follow the physician's instructions on aftercare for the turtle. You should also educate yourself regarding the rehabilitation of injured and diseased turtles by taking classes with certified rehabilitators.

  • Watch for signs of new illnesses or injury to your turtle. Box turtles commonly suffer from ear infections and eye infections. The ears of a turtle are located on the side of its head and are flat areas. If the ear area becomes swollen it is likely infected and will need to be treated with antibiotics. Eye infections also cause swelling and antibiotics may be necessary as well. Antibiotic cream can be applied but a veterinarian needs to be consulted.

  • Supplement your turtle's diet with foods rich in vitamin A and calcium. Turtles need these nutrients to ward off illness. You can also provide a cuttlebone in your turtle's habitat, which will provide both calcium and an object on which the turtle can keep his beak at an appropriate length. Captive turtles often develop overgrown beaks when not provide with a natural envirnonment.

  • Prepare your habitat for the turtle's hibernation. Turtles spend the coolest months slumbering underground. They dig their own holes in which to hibernate but you can be helpful in making sure they have a soft layer of soil. Also, many turtle owners place a layer of natural straw over the area of the pen in which hibernation is taking place for additional warmth and protection.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not overfeed turtles. It is a good idea to allow the turtle to self-feed by providing growing plants in the enclosure and occasionally (once a week) providing crickets and worms. Do not overfeed with dog food or other commercial products.

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