Wood Turtle Care & Feeding
A thorough treatment of the captive care, feeding, and breeding of the North American wood turtle.
[Proofed, validated by Dr. Erik Johnson @ drjohnson.com]
The North American wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta), also known as the Eastern wood turtle, is a medium-sized freshwater turtle that can be found in the eastern United States and Canada. Wood turtles are omnivorous and have a unique diet, feeding on a combination of animal and plant material. In captivity, it is important to replicate their natural diet as closely as possible, maintain proper water quality, and provide adequate space and temperatures for their well-being.
Captive Care North American wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta):
Wood turtles require a relatively large enclosure to thrive. A minimum enclosure size for an individual turtle should be at least 4 feet long by 2 feet wide, with a water depth of at least 6 inches. The enclosure should include both land and water areas, with a basking area that is accessible to the turtle. It is important to maintain a temperature gradient within the enclosure, with the basking area being the warmest and the water area being cooler. A temperature range of 75-85°F (24-29°C) is ideal for wood turtles.
Water quality is also an important aspect of captive care. The water should be changed and filtered regularly to maintain clean and healthy conditions for the turtle. Wood turtles are prone to respiratory infections, so it is important to avoid damp conditions and provide adequate ventilation within the enclosure.
Feeding North American wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta):
In the wild, wood turtles have a varied diet that includes insects, worms, snails, crustaceans, fish, and plant material. In captivity, it is important to replicate this diet as closely as possible. Commercially available turtle diets can be used as a supplement, but should not be the sole source of nutrition. It is important to offer a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, and proteins to ensure a balanced diet. Some examples of suitable foods for wood turtles include kale, collard greens, dandelion greens, squash, carrots, strawberries, blueberries, crickets, mealworms, and earthworms. It is important to avoid feeding high-fat foods, such as cheese and fatty meats, as well as toxic plants like avocado.
Breeding North American wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta):
Breeding wood turtles in captivity is possible, but can be challenging. The turtles require a cool period (hibernation) in the winter in order to breed successfully. The male and female should be introduced in the spring after they have emerged from hibernation. Mating can take place both in the water and on land. Females will lay 3-10 eggs in a nest dug in a sunny location with sandy soil. The eggs will hatch after an incubation period of approximately 70-80 days at a temperature of 80-85°F (27-29°C).
Overall, providing appropriate care and diet can help ensure the health and well-being of North American wood turtles in captivity. Properly caring for these turtles can be rewarding, but requires careful attention to their needs and behaviors.
Size of Enclosure for North American wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta):
The minimum enclosure size for one adult wood turtle should be at least 4 feet long by 2 feet wide, with a water depth of at least 6 inches. However, larger enclosures are always better, and providing more space can improve the health and well-being of the turtle.
Water Requirements of North American wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta):
Wood turtles are semi-aquatic and require a water area to swim and soak in. The water area should be at least 1/3 of the enclosure size, with a depth of at least 6 inches. A water filter and regular water changes are necessary to maintain good water quality.
Land fall for North American wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta):
Wood turtles also require a land area to bask and rest on. The land area should include a basking spot that is accessible to the turtle, with a temperature of around 85°F (29°C). The land area should also include hiding places, such as rocks or logs, to provide the turtle with a sense of security.
Substrate for North American wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) enclosures:
The substrate in the enclosure should be a mixture of sand, soil, and mulch. This substrate should be deep enough to allow the turtle to burrow and should be kept moist but not wet. Avoid using substrates that are high in organic matter or that may cause impaction, such as gravel or pebbles.
Lighting requirements of North American wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta):
Wood turtles require access to UVB lighting to maintain their health. A UVB bulb should be provided over the basking area and replaced every 6-12 months.
North American wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) requires a temperature gradient in the enclosure, with the basking area being the warmest and the water area being cooler. The temperature should range between 75-85°F (24-29°C) during the day and drop slightly at night.
Overall, the enclosure should provide a naturalistic and stimulating environment for the wood turtle to thrive.
If you are planning to keep North American wood turtles outside in Georgia year-round, here are some tips on how to take care of them:
Outdoor Enclosure for North American wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta):
- The outdoor enclosure should be large enough to provide ample space for the turtle to move around, with a land and water area. The enclosure should be secure and predator-proof. It is also important to provide a shelter, such as a hide box, for the turtle to retreat to.
- In Georgia, wood turtles can be kept outside year-round, as long as they are provided with the appropriate temperature range. During the summer, the enclosure should be shaded and the water temperature should be kept around 75°F (24°C). In the winter, the turtle should be allowed to hibernate, so the enclosure should be kept cool and the turtle should have access to a burrow or other hiding place. The ideal temperature range for hibernation is between 40-50°F (4-10°C).
- The water area should be cleaned regularly and kept at a constant temperature. In Georgia, the water may need to be cooled in the summer to prevent overheating of the turtle.
- The wood turtle’s diet should consist of a variety of animal and plant material, such as insects, worms, snails, fish, and leafy greens. Food should be offered daily during the active season and less frequently during hibernation.
- Wood turtles require access to UVB lighting to maintain their health. A UVB bulb should be provided over the basking area.
- It is important to monitor the wood turtle’s behavior and health regularly. Signs of illness or stress include lethargy, lack of appetite, abnormal swimming, or shell deformities. If any of these signs are observed, the turtle should be taken to a reptile veterinarian for treatment.
Overall, caring for North American wood turtles outside in Georgia year-round requires attention to their specific needs and behaviors. With proper care and attention, wood turtles can thrive in an outdoor enclosure.
Question: Is there anything special I have to do for North American wood turtles to keep them outside over winter in Georgia?
Answer: Yes, there are some special considerations when keeping North American wood turtles outside over winter in Georgia. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- In the wild, wood turtles hibernate during the winter months to conserve energy and survive the cold temperatures. To simulate this natural process, it is important to allow your wood turtle to hibernate in a safe and controlled environment. In Georgia, wood turtles typically hibernate from November to March.
Preparing for hibernation:
- Before hibernation, your wood turtle should be in good health and have a sufficient fat reserve. It is important to provide your turtle with a cooler temperature (between 40-50°F or 4-10°C) and access to a burrow or other hiding place. You may need to gradually reduce the temperature in the enclosure over several weeks to allow the turtle to acclimate.
- During hibernation, it is important to monitor your wood turtle regularly to ensure that it is healthy and not losing too much weight. Weigh your turtle before and after hibernation to make sure it is not losing more than 5-10% of its body weight. If your turtle loses too much weight, it may need to be awakened from hibernation and given supplemental food and warmth.
Waking up from hibernation:
- As spring approaches, you should gradually warm up the enclosure to allow your wood turtle to wake up from hibernation. Increase the temperature by a few degrees each week until it reaches the normal daytime temperature range. Offer food and water to your turtle once it is fully awake and active.
Overall, hibernation is a natural process for wood turtles, but it is important to provide them with a safe and controlled environment to ensure their health and well-being. If you are unsure about how to prepare your wood turtle for hibernation or monitor it during the winter months, it is best to consult with a reptile veterinarian.
It is not recommended to feed dog food, monkey food, or rabbit food to North American wood turtles. These types of food are not part of their natural diet and may not provide the appropriate balance of nutrients they need to stay healthy.Instead, a varied diet of animal and plant material should be offered to your wood turtle. Some examples of appropriate foods include:
- Insects such as crickets, mealworms, and earthworms
- Fish, such as small pieces of canned or frozen salmon, trout, or sardines
- Leafy greens such as kale, collard greens, and dandelion greens
- Vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash
It is important to offer a variety of foods to your wood turtle to ensure that it is getting all the necessary nutrients. The food should be chopped into small pieces that are easy for the turtle to eat, and any uneaten food should be removed from the enclosure to prevent it from spoiling. It is also important to avoid feeding your turtle any food that has been treated with pesticides or herbicides, as these can be harmful to the turtle’s health.