When it comes to owning a pet, some individuals want an animal that is going to last with them through the years. This lifespan is impossible for many pets, though when it comes to the box turtle, they live much longer than most. Exactly how long can they live?
Box turtles can live anywhere from 25-50 years. Some have even been found to live as long as 100 years. The lifespan of a box turtle in captivity is largely dependent on its diet, its habitat, and the proper care given to it by its owner.
Box turtles may seem like the type of animal that would have a relatively short lifespan due to it’s size and overall qualities, however, they are reptiles that can be family pets for years and years if given the proper care. Continue reading to find out the lifespan of box turtles in the wild and in captivity and the different ways to protect the lifespan of those in captivity to ensure they live as long as they possibly can.
What is the Lifespan of a Box Turtle
Box turtles may not be the type of animal that will jump on you when you come home from work, they may not join you on your afternoon walk, and they may not sing your praises every time you give them a snack. Although they may not be the most typical pet, they certainly do one thing very well and that is live a very long life. Box turtles - wild or in captivity life incredibly long lives, but let’s take a look at the lifespan differences between the two.
What is the Lifespan of a Box Turtle in the Wild?
Box turtles in the wild can sometimes live much longer than those in captivity due to their own ability to provide the exact nutrients they need for survival without having to depend on a human supplementing them. Although this may be the case for their long-term survival, there are a few hurdles that box turtles in the wild have to overcome that those in captivity simply do not have to worry about.
Box turtles in the wild typically live 30-50 years, with 50 years being the true average for many of these little reptiles. There have been multiple accounts of them living well to even 100 years old. They are able to provide their own diets well enough to maintain themselves for this extended amount of time without any interference from humans. However, this is not possible for all box turtles, especially those within their first year.
For many baby and juvenile box turtles, they are unable to make it past their first year in the wild. They are considered prey and at such a small size, are easily eaten by owls, foxes, snakes, raccoons, chipmunks, coyotes, and even dogs on occasion. Once they have made it past the first year and are larger and better able to retreat into their shell, it is much less likely that they will be preyed upon and thus, their long lives will commence.
What is the Lifespan of a Box Turtle in Captivity?
Box turtles in captivity should be able to live just as long in captivity, and many have, but it is a more fragile ecosystem and lifestyle for a box turtle in captivity which can lead to a shorter life. Of course, many owners do exactly as they are advised to and make sure that their boxed turtle is properly cared for in every possible way, however, sometimes this is simply not enough and can result in a few years less on their overall life.
For box turtles that live in captivity, the average lifespan is 25-50 years. Many fall on the shorter end of this span living from 25-30 years. This still is an incredibly long time for a turtle to live and with this amount of time, they can be a very good pet throughout all kinds of different life stages and. A box turtle in captivity is dependent on humans to give them exactly what they need nutritionally and environmentally, which can many times be the problem.
For box turtles in captivity, they are not able to seek out the nutrients they need in order to fill in any gaps within their diet. If they are indoors, they are not able to absorb the vitamins that the sun can provide or have an opportunity to catch live food on their own. Essentially, captive boxed turtles do not have control over their own health and can many times be found lacking. Considering this, let’s take a look at what is really important to the long life of a box turtle.
How You Can Protect the Life of Your Box Turtle in Captivity
Having a box turtle may seem like it would be an easy feat initially, but now that you know the factors that contribute to a shorter life span for those turtles in captivity, the equation may look a little more complicated. Even so, there are a few surefire ways to protect the life of your box turtle and make sure that they are equipped to live a long life through the thorough and intentional care that comes from their owners.
Box Turtles Need a Proper Habitat
Box turtles are terrestrial reptiles, which means that they need plenty of space to roam about. They spend the majority of their days on land and thus, need ample room to walk, hide, eat, and explore. These creatures may be small, but they are quick and should have a very large habitat that reflects the open area they would experience in the wild. Even more than space, a box turtle is going to fare much better its their habitat is outside.
Many box turtles remain indoors throughout their lives and do well with very specific adjustments made to their habitat, but they will thrive having their own space outside. This is one of the biggest reasons that people stay away from taking on a box turtle as a pet because they simply do not have the outdoor space. However, this is one aspect that will certainly help to keep them alive and thriving due to plenty of sun, fresh air, and the earth beneath them.
An outdoor habitat should have space, a wide array of different plants and rocks to hide beneath and between, and a shallow dish for water that they can wade in from time to time. Their habitat in the outdoors should be diverse in landscape and should offer them a wide array of different textures within their space to imitate what they would experience if they were to be meandering through their own natural environment.
Box Turtles Need a Proper Diet
Box turtles are not the type of animal that can go their whole lives only eating one type of food. These reptiles need a very diverse diet and one that is able to provide them with the proper nutrition they need in order to live a long life. Diet is one of the biggest problems for box turtles in captivity and it is also one of the biggest reasons those that are fed properly are able to live so much longer than those who go without what they need nutritionally.
Box turtles need a wide variety of different fruits, vegetables, and proteins. However, it is important that you pay close attention to the calcium and phosphorus balance in the veggies and fruits that you serve them. A ratio of 1.5:1 or 2:1 is ideal for your box turtle and you should familiarize yourself with these balances in each item that your turtle eats. It is important that you pay attention to the overall balance in their diet as a whole, not just one specific item.
Once you have this understood, your box turtle can have a diet that includes a premixed food, various fruits, lots of vegetables, and different proteins such as earthworms and butterworms. On top of this, your box turtle should be given a vitamin and mineral supplement to help aid in their dietary needs that may not be met from time to time. Give your turtle plenty to choose from, monitor the overall calcium and phosphorus balance and they will be happy and healthy.
Box Turtles Should Be Monitored for Illness
Box turtles are susceptible to quite a few illnesses and because of this, it is essential that you monitor them for any type of changes in their behavior and appearance. Different conditions that your box turtle can come down with include parasites, fungal infections, vitamin A deficiency, bacterial infections, respiratory disorders, and metabolic bone disease. Some are more common than others and can be spotted early through observation of your box turtle.
Metabolic bone disease is at the top of the list when it comes to the most common health problems of box turtles. This results from deficiencies in their diet or a lack of proper exposure to sunlight. This disease can be identified on the shell, beak, or nails of your turtle. It can cause the shell to turn soft and deform, can curve nails outward, can cause the beak of your turtle to flatten, or can cause legs to begin to splay out rather than go towards their body.
Respiratory diseases are also common and can come on due to different viral or fungal infections as well as bad living conditions. You will notice your turtle wheezing, swollen eyes, bubbles coming from the mouth, and general trouble with breathing. Shell rot is also a common problem and is caused by damage to the shell or an inability for the shell to dry properly. Injury of the shell is the most obvious sign.
Owners of box turtles should familiarize themselves with these common problems while also taking time to learn other health-related issues that their box turtles are susceptible to. The key to each is to spot them early and get the box turtle the proper treatment that will allow them to heal at an appropriate rate. Be sure to inspect your box turtle every few weeks as gently as you can to make sure no obvious illnesses are present.