Fact #1 - Wild Turtles eat a varied Diet.
In the wild, a Box Turtle has a home range, and it seldom if
ever strays from its home turf. But for the turtle's size,
the home range of a Box Turtle is fairly large, and as it
wanders about each day it browses on just about anything
that will fit in its mouth.
Covering a wide area and so finding and eating a large
variety of foods ensures that its diet is well-balanced and
supplies the essential mineral trace elements that it needs
for health and reproduction. Even the best diets provided
for pet box turtles are very restricted when compared to
these natural feeding patterns.
Also, wild turtles mainly live in areas where calcium and
other trace minerals are abundant in the soil, and they have
full access to sunlight, which contains UV-B radiation -
required by the tortoise to internally synthesize vitamin-
Although woodland tortoises such as the Three-Toed or
Eastern Box Turtle do get more calcium and vitamin D from
their omnivorous diet than the strict plant eating
tortoises, a captive diet still is likely to be deficient.
A turtle raised on a diet that doesn't contain adequate
calcium and D3, or with too much protein, will develop shell
and other body abnormalities, and may even die. For this
reason, a Box Turtle pet owner must provide a diet of foods that
are close to what the turtle might find in the wild, and
then supplement with special turtle supplements (available
from many pet stores.)
You should also be aware that Three-Toed and other woodland
box turtles are not strictly vegetarian. Although they love
green vegetables, tomatoes, strawberries, and the like, they
also need earthworms, crickets and other protein as well as
many types of vegetables and fruits. A diet of only one or
two things or just commercial tortoise food will give your
pet a very short and probably uncomfortable life.
You will save money, enjoy your pet more, and keep your
turtles healthy by feeding them a diet of fresh foods, and a
wide variety of them. If your turtles naturally live in a
climate and habitat very similar to yours, and you give them
a well-designed outdoor habitat, you may not need to
supplement, but otherwise, be sure to add a good turtle D3
vitamin/mineral powder to their food regularly.
Aim for a high calcium, low phosphorous content diet of
varied vegetables and protein foods such as low-fat dry dog
food, soaked overnight, earthworms, mealworms, and the like.
Remember, your Box Turtle may be slow, but he too thinks
that "variety is the spice of life."