Captive Care of North American Water Turtles

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Wood Turtle Care Sheet

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Item s unavailable for purchase. I always try and keep some sort of fruit out there for them, but I never allow food to remain in there overnight to avoid predation. As for water I use a large shallow sturdy Rubbermaid-type container for them, and I never fill it more than five to six inches, since a male will crawl in there and drown another one if the water is much deeper than that. Also if you keep more than one or two males you're asking for trouble.

They are "best buddies" on dry land, but once in water the males become very territorial, and fights will be common if you have one too many males. Breeding also takes place in the water, and for this I place a pair in water about a foot deep or less and watch them closely. The male will immediately mount the female and will court her for a length of time.

Every "courting" does not result in a mating. For best results I pick a cool day following hot weather, and mating is more likely.

Captive Care of North American Water Turtles

The activity must be supervised for signs of distress, because he will very easily drown your female, and I have lost a dozen or so females over the years from this, and now I won't let them out of my sight. The actual copulation lasts about an hour or so, and once they're firmly "connected" I lift the pair out of the deeper water and place them into a shallow container with water of the same temperature, and away from other turtles.

I move them so the female can get some much-needed air during the ordeal. Here in Florida the eggs are laid between late-March and late-April, and the Florida sun seems to be a bit strong for them, so I hatch them indoors in plastic containers. Nesting occurs around sundown usually, but sometimes in the mornings, or during a sudden storm during any daylight hour. They hide their nest quite well, and if I don't see them digging the hole, I may never find the eggs. Moles and shrews find them very quickly here, and the eggs are often eaten just as the female covers them.

When raising them indoors you are assured a perfectly healthy and flawless collection that may just outlive you, and outdoors you'll get some offspring, and again remember the risks.

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Also most "Woodies" will lay their eggs once a year, but it's not uncommon for some to produce a second set of eggs less than a month later. Also once they reach adult size brumation seems to be best for them - providing they have experienced the summer outside. If you're keeping them indoors and they have never seen the light of the sun, they can be kept going with no problem, but to brumate them it's best to leave them outdoors until the leaves drop, and pile the leaves up so they can burrow beneath them.

Before really cold weather arrives bring them indoors and put them into a shallow container of water in a dark, cool basement, and they'll sleep the winter away! They will sleep comfortably until April. Here in Florida I never bring them in, and beneath their sheet of plastic they will spend their nights, and throughout the winter they emerge in the morning sun to bask awhile and to get a drink, and by choice some will enter the water container and will use it instead of the plastic cover, but a warm sunny day will always bring them forth.

Keeping wood turtles pretty much depends upon their winter care, and "wintering" them successfully will assure decades of joy with these amazing creatures. They will dazzle you with their intelligence and will literally come running to you at feeding time. There are so many things I could share about these from the 30 years of experience I have had in keeping them as a part of my family. I will do a "Herping" article on the wood turtle in the near future to see their wild side, and if you do find these on a list I promise you won't be disappointed with these, as they add a bit of "personality" to the world of turtles.

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