Spotted Box Turtle – Terrapene Nelsoni, Box Turtles

spotted turtle diet

Spotted Box Turtle – Terrapene Nelsoni

Female Northen spottied box turtle. Picture from video by Robert A Villa. Watch the video here.

The Spotted Box Turtle is is a species of box turtles in the Genus terrapene.

  • Spotted Box Turtle, Terrapene Nelsoni – Stejneger, 1925

It has two known sub-species:

  • Northern Spotted Box Turtle (Terrapene Nelsoni Klauberi)
  • Southern Spotted Box Turtle (Terrapene Nelsoni Nelsoni)

Spotted Box Turtle Distribution

The Spotted Box Turtle is an endemic species. This means that it only lives in one isolated location. They can only be found in Sierra Madre Occidental, Mexico. Sightings and studies have been extremely rare. They have not been classified as endangered but obtaining one would likely be very difficult.

Spotted Box Turtle Habitat

A Spotted Box Turtles preferred microhabitat is still a subject of debate, due to the lack of study and rare findings. A consistent finding is that they like isolation, and their nests are hard to find

Habitat in the northern most area of the distrobution for the spotted box turtle. Picture from video by Robert A Villa. Watch the video here.

and access. Rarely has more than one been spotted in the wild, and the most ever recorded in one location was four. They are believed to only be active during the summer monsoon. Box turtles in general tend to live near a shallow body of fresh water. This is vital for their ability to cool down, rehydrate and hunt for insects.

As one might guess, Spotted Box Turtles are identifiable due to unique spotted patterns. These spots occur on their shell, and are tiny numerous dots. As a species of box turtle, the Spotted Box Turtle has a hinged shell that allows it to enclose its body entirely; protecting its limbs from potential threats.

Sexing a Spotted Box Turtle

Box turtles can often be gendered by inspecting their lower shell. The male specimens tend to have a concave curve on their lower shell. The reason for this is that it helps them mount over the female during mating. The female’s lower shell will be flattered by comparison.

Spotted Box Turtle V >

Female Northen spottied box turtle. Picture from video by Robert A Villa. Watch the video here.

The study of Spotted Box Turtles has been so insufficient that their official status on the endanger species status has never been specified. Sightings are rare however, and acquiring one as a pet in the United States is both expensive and difficult to accomplish. Further, the profound lack of study for this species could make them harder to care for in comparison to other species of turtle.

They make a desirable specimen due to their unique spotted design. But trying to care for one is a bit of a gamble. Until further study and cultivation has been undertaken, their presence in the pet trade is small and has an uncertain future.

Housing a Spotted Box Turtle

Box turtles are often happiest when kept in an enclosure that they cannot see through. Glass is irritating for box turtles. They don’t understand the concept of it and will struggle against the invisible barrier indefinitely. Their thirst to escape can sometimes be quelled with an “out of sight, out of mind” logic. By keeping them in an enclosure they cannot see out of, they will be more at peace with their enclosure and experience less stress.

Humidity is important for a box turtle, and it’s important that their enclosure have a spray bottle used on it multiple times throughout the day. A source of fresh water is vital. This should be a wide, shallow water source that is large enough for the turtle to soak in. It has to be changed frequently and kept as fresh as possible.

Privacy is important to box turtles, even beyond what their hinged shell can provide. They desire things like brush and logs in their enclosure that they can hide in. They also need loose, soft bedding that they can burrow into. This makes them feel safer and can also help them cool off.

Reptiles cannot regulate their own body temperature and their enclosure must provide this for them. A heating lamp often works best. This must be kept to one side of the enclosure so that the turtle can move closer to it, or further away from it as needed.

When taken from their home, a box turtle may never cease their urge to return to their birthplace. You have to make sure that the enclosure is escape proof. They can try to chew or claw their way through the walls if you’re using a flimsy material, and if it’s an outdoor enclosure they may even try to burrow underneath it. Make sure they can’t get out and predators can’t get in.

Feeding a Spotted Box Turtle

You will have to balance their diet with a mixture of plant matter and animal protein. Insects are often the first choice for meat. They’ll hunt crickets and similar feeder insects you can buy at any pet store. In some cases, they will also eat things like baby mice, which can be bought frozen and then thawed.

For plant matter you can give them things like lettuce and fruit. Sometimes they will have a favorite treat, like strawberries. Resist the urge to give them just their favorite; they need to a variety of foods to get all their nutrients.

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