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FAQs About Turtle Identification 2

Related Articles: Turtles, Shell Rot in Turtles, Amphibians, Red Eared Slider Care,

FAQs on: Turtle Identification 1, Turtle ID 3, Turtle ID 4,
Related FAQs: Turtles 1, Turtles 2, Red Ear Sliders, Turtle Behavior, Turtle Compatibility, Turtle Selection, Turtle Systems, Turtle Feeding, Turtle Disease, Shell Rot, Turtle Reproduction, & by Species: Musk/Mud Turtles, Softshells, Snapping Turtles, Mata Matas, Tortoises, & Amphibians, Other Reptiles,

Turtle identification 10/10/09
Hello :)
A friend of my daughter's found this turtle in the woods. I already scolded him for taking it from its habitat, but now I'm not sure what to do with it.
<Generally best to release it where found, as soon as possible. Ideally, contact your local Fish & Wildlife department to see if a park ranger can take you to an optimal release site away from things like busy roads.>
I am wondering if I should take it to the pet store even though my daughter wants to keep it.
<Certainly shouldn't take it to a pet store. For one thing, wild animals can catch diseases from pet animals, and _vice versa_. On the other hand, staff at a good reptile and amphibian store may well know something about the reptiles local to your bit of the world.>
He is rather small (about as big as the palm of my hand) and the bottom of his shell is a bit soft.
<Appears to be an Eastern Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina. This is a highly variable species, but the dome-like shell, brown colour, and hooked beak are characteristic. The front of the lower shell is hinged, so when the head is pulled back, a trapdoor closes off that part of the shell. Males have red eyes, females brown. I'm assuming you're in the United States somewhere, where this is species is _by far_ the most common terrestrial turtle (what here in England we'd call a tortoise).>
He has a short neck, dark eyes and the bit of yellow colorings that I can see. seem to be much darker at times and DO appear much brighter in photos.
<If the eyes are brown, and this is Terrapene carolina, then "he" is a she.>
He is currently in a large bird cage which we have attempted to convert for his needs. (Frisbee filled with water, dirt for burrowing, half of a potters pot for shelter and "hiding" etc.
<Wild-caught specimens don't especially well in captivity, though you have covered the key things, particularly water. They like to bathe, but the water shouldn't be so deep (or the bowl so steep around the edges) it cannot get out easily. If it gets through the first few weeks, and eats and drinks normally, the species can last a long time in captivity. High humidity is important. Bear this in mind if you decide to keep this animal; kept properly, it'll outlive you! The record for a wild specimen is 138 years, and between 50-100 years seems fairly common. In captivity you can expect upwards of 30 year lifespans, and up to 60 years has been reported.
Like all reptiles, you need to provide a heat source of some sort if you do not plan to hibernate the animal. Generally, hibernating reptiles is tricky unless you have fattened them up carefully beforehand, and I'd recommend against it, at least for the first year. The heat source of choice is a lamp, and it should be one that produces UV-B as well as heat, because they need UV-B to synthesise Vitamin B1 and convert calcium into bone and shell.
In short: they need a big vivarium, a bathing pool, a source of heat, and a source of UV-B. This will be fairly expensive to pull together, and while there's no rush, you will need to have all these bits and pieces before it starts getting too cold. In the wild your Box Turtle would be looking for a resting place to hibernate, somewhere cool, dry, secure from predators and safe from flooding. If you want to keep your turtle, you're going to have to provide a warm, humid alternative.>
He moves very quickly and seems to be quite smart lol. (He found a way out of the cage within a few minutes of putting him in it and we were thankful we were there to see it or we never would have believed it - it's fixed now. - and he already prefers one shelter corner over the other!).
<Shelter is indeed very important. It's also critical to make sure predators, particularly pet dogs, can't get into the cage. Even a "playful" dog could wound or kill a Box Turtle.>
I have attached some photos and am very curious to know what kind of turtle he is, how old, gender etc. and most importantly what he should be eating and what I should do with him.
<As I said, likely Terrapene carolina, probably female if the eyes are brown rather than red. Age difficult to say; seems to be full grown, so could be anything from 10 to 100 years!>
we've tried many types of food (lettuce, bugs, cooked eggs, cooked pork, fruit etc. - so far he seems to prefer the eggs and pork but only ate each of those once along with a small bit of cucumber. He seems to eat one day but not the next.
<Avoid "meat", i.e., anything from a warm blooded animal. The fats in these foods coagulate inside the turtle, causing problems. Instead opt for mostly greens, romaine lettuce and curly lettuce being ideal. Augment with soft fruit (melon, tomato, berries) and offer small amounts of things like earthworms, mealworms, and white fish. Very occasionally you can offer them cooked chicken bones, which seem to go down well, but not too often.>
Thanks in advance for your help.
<If you plan to keep this animal, do spend some time reading up on keeping Eastern Box Turtles in captivity. There are some excellent reptile books available for pet owners, and one of those would be a sound investment.
Keeping reptiles in captivity isn't easy, and not something to do on a whim. It's a shame to capture an animal that can live for 100 years in the wild, and then kill it after a few months through neglect. So, make your choice: buy all the stuff it needs to thrive, or else return the animal from whence it came, ideally after calling the local wildlife bureau in your neighbourhood. Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: turtle identification 10/10/09
Thank you so much for a speedy reply.
<My pleasure.>
Based on your information, we have decided it would be most fair to this little lady if we called our local wildlife bureau and let her have her chance to live to a ripe old age.
<Good move.>
You have been most helpful.
PS - we Live in Florida, USA. Although we are a very warm and humid state, we do have our cold days in winter so she would still need much care.
<Air temperature all year around should be fine if this animal was kept indoors in a room that wasn't air conditioned. The main thing is to avoid extremes of heat and coldness; anything between 15-30 C should be fine, assuming it has access to water (to keep cool) and a basking lamp (to warm up). But there's no getting around the fact reptiles are all expensive pets in terms of setting up their habitat, even though compared to cats and dogs their long term costs are low (they don't eat much; kept properly, rarely get sick; and don't need such procedures as neutering). Still, they're not pets for everyone. Cheers, Neale.>

Care of a 2 in. alligator snapping turtle 9/30/09
<Hiya - Darrel here>
My granddaughter found a small black turtle with a beak and spiny back on September 26 in the middle of a barrier beach of Smith Point County Park on Fire Island, Suffolk County New York. My husband had spotted a similar turtle a few days earlier in the middle of the camp ground road and he moved it to the marshy area on the bayside of the barrier beach. We feel we rescued it but want to know what to do now!
<That would be a long way out of the range of an alligator snapping turtle, but within the normal range of a common snapper, Barbara. Alligator snappers are common only to the drainage basin around the Mississippi river. Assuming there's no chance that it's an escaped pet or even a sea turtle (Sea turtles have flippers and no claws)?? What I'd really like at this point is a couple of photos, even if just from a phone camera. Face, side and from front & above would help clear up a number of questions>
We have it in a clear plastic container with wet beach sand, a clump of wet kelp and a sea sponge and a clam shell to provide habitat and a receptacle for fresh water and food.
<None of those would be common environment of either snapping turtle>
We offered bits of cooked chicken ,chopped meat and lettuce at different times without much interest.
<Based on it's environment it probably is in no mood, maybe even no condition to eat>
It has been active at times, climbing to the top of the sponge but is mostly burrowed into a thin layer of sand under the kelp. Aside from removing the old food and 'poop' and occasionally peeking under things to assure that it is alive we haven't disturbed it much. Now the question: is it keepable as a pet for an 8 year old under supervision, or should we release it and where?
<Well whether or not it's keepable is dependent on a great number of question unanswered. Snapping turtles are notorious for biting hard and having short tempers, so they don't make a good lap pet. But with that said, even a Red Eared Slider can inflict a nasty bite if handled incorrectly -- so really it all depends on the level of maturity of the 8 year old. Turtles are good pets to house, care for and observe, but not to play with.>
<As far as the other thing ... NO!!! NO!!! We never EVER release any animal into the wild, even when it's with our best intentions.
Territories, sub species, communicable diseases ... just a few of a hundred reasons. If he survived at all, he'd possibly contaminate others, so we never ever release into the wild.>
<Once we find out what it is -- send pics!!! -- we'll decide what to do.
In the mean time, the link below will give you some basic information.>
<All snapping turtles are more aquatic than sliders. While they do it less often, they DO haul out & bask and still need a warm dry place to soak up some UV rays ... so for the purpose of the time being only, read the enclosed link and set up a basic environment to specifications. Meanwhile send pics and we'll go from there>
Any help or advise you can give would be most appreciated!
Sincerely Grandma
< http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/RESCareBarton.htm>

Re: care of a 2 in. alligator snapping turtle 9/30/09
Hi Barbara,
Yes, what you have there is the Common Snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina. They make interesting pets but frankly they are a bit dangerous. The rules for keeping a snapping turtle are that you never, ever, ever ... for any reason .... put anything you care about anywhere near the front half of that animal. They're not actually mean ... but they have a very limited tolerance for anything moving around in front of their face before they'll strike out at it -- and once they grab a solid hold, they have the ability to hang on for very long periods.
A 20 gallon aquarium (or similar container) with shallow water (no deeper than 4 inches) and a small place to haul out and dry off under a basking light is all that is required initially. If it's not an actual aquarium, make sure the sides are high enough that it can't climb. Feeding is simple -- ReptoMin food sticks or Koi Pellets from the local pet store (same ingredients, just cheaper) will provide a fully balanced diet.
They're interesting, low maintenance pets but on the other hand, they're very hardy animals that, with even minimal care, can grow to an extremely dangerous size in just a few years. So my advice on keeping it? ...
maybe .. maybe not. But if you decide not, inquire around your city for a turtle and tortoise club to find someone with the desire and experience and please just don't release it.
Best wishes

Turtle identification 8/18/09
I'm Lotoya
<I'm not! -- I'm Darrel>
I'm just trying to identify the type of turtle that I have. Based on the receipt I received from the pet shop, it states that its a red ear slider.
However, based on photos that I have found on the internet, it looks more like a yellow bellied slider, So I am just trying to confirm this with you guys.
<Based on the lack of a bright red patch on the side of the head, generally around where we'd expect ears to be (hence the name Red "Eared" Slider as opposed to Red "Necked" Slider), this is indeed a one of any number of subspecies of Trachemys Scripta scripta, or Yellow Bellied Slider.>
<Of course, if he sits around the house all day chewing tobacco, has a broke down pickup truck in his front lawn and a refrigerator on his front porch .... HE JUST MIGHT BE a REDNECK Yellow Bellied Slider!!!!!!>
PS I have attached two photographs.
<Larry is handsome>
Thanks in advance for your help.
<Here's some more help: a Complete Guide to caring for Larry:

Turtle Identification 7/14/2009
Can you all identify this baby turtle for me?
<Yeah -- I think his name is Gary.>
<He might be a baby Box turtle (Terrapene) or any one of a number of Emydid (water) turtles. The problem is that the straight on top angle gives us just a vague outline. We can tell he's not a mud, musk, soft-shell or snapping turtle. Not a Tortoise or a sea turtle. He's not a Clydesdale Horse either, but I suspect you already figured that out.>
<What I'd really like is a couple of face shots and one from the side.
Not glamour shots of course, no hair or makeup needed .. just a better angle to see his distinct features.>
<Unless you mean that OTHER thing .... that's not a turtle at all, that's a quarter!>
<Regards - Darrel>

what kind of turtle and how old is it 6/27/09
I know the attached is not a snapping turtle but I have never seen anything this big that was not, what is it and how old.
<It's a Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina). Alligator Snapping Turtles (Macrochelys temminckii) generally have a row of spikes along the midline of the shell running along the spine, whereas Common Snapping Turtles do not. As for age, I have no idea. Captive specimens routinely live well over 20 years, and the record is around twice that. Given the apparent size of this specimen, it is probably going to be well over ten years old.>
found in the Metro North Parking lot, in June, 2009 land put on side of road and let go. /Westchester County, NY
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: what kind of turtle and how old is it 6/27/09
I would never have guessed a snapping turtle. Thank you for your very prompt reply. John H Vargo, Publisher, Boatingonthehudson.com and boating on the Hudson & beyond mag.
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

What kind of turtle is this? 4/30/09
My little girl found this turtle while fishing and wanted to keep it. I would like to know what kind it is so I can give it the proper care it needs.
<Hello James. The photos are too blurry to be able to tell anything much, but it would appear to be a Slider of some sort, Trachemys spp. So the basic requirements are not much different to the popular Red-ear Slider, as outlined here:
Now, before you give in to your daughter, think about how much it costs to keep one of these. Most Sliders are big and messy, eventually dinner plate-sized animals that need aquaria around 55 gallons in size, if not larger. Beside the tank, you'll need a big external canister filter just to keep the water clean and safe; without it, the water will become cloudy as well as toxic. Minimum, you want a filter rated at 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour; for a 55 gallon system, that's 330 gallons per hour. So, the filter and the aquarium are already setting you back the best part of $200. Next up is a heater (yes, you'll need one, because the turtle won't be able to hibernate in captivity when room temperature drops.
Without a heater, it will quickly become plagued with respiratory tract infections that require care from your vet, not to mention all the other problems reptiles succumb to when they're cold. As if this wasn't enough, you'll also need a basking lamp, specifically a UV-B lamp, without which the turtle will rapidly become sick. It needs UV-B to perform certain chemical reactions associated with bone and shell formation, among other things. All told, you're going to be spending several hundred dollars.
Because turtles grow rapidly, a smaller tank now (say, a 20 gallon system) would need to be upgraded within a couple of years. Finally, there's diet: turtles can't be maintained on "turtle food" from the pet shop, at least, not entirely. You need to augment their diet on a regular basis (i.e., every week) with fresh green foods. While not expensive, quite the contrary in fact, this underlines the fact that Sliders aren't "easy" pets. They're difficult to keep, expensive, and around children at least, potentially hazardous because Salmonella and other bacteria grow easily in their habitats (especially if said habitat isn't kept clean!). They aren't
especially pretty when they mature (most become fairly dull green, and the yellow colour you see now will fade away) and certainly have no interest at all in being handled. What I'm trying to tell you is that you should stop and think EXTREMELY carefully before taking on the burden of a pet turtle.
Much better to observe this animal in the wild -- where it belongs, frankly -- and enjoy it for what it is, a wild animal. Then maybe go with your daughter to a pet shop or book shop, buy a book about keeping pet reptiles, and then decide if you, as a family, are prepared to create a home for these admittedly fascinating animals. Cheers, Neale.>

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