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Related FAQs: Turtles, Turtles 2, Sliders, Turtle Identification, Turtle Behavior, Turtle Compatibility, Turtle Selection, Turtle Systems, Turtle Systems 2, Turtle Feeding, Turtle Disease, Turtle Disease 2, Turtle Disease 3, Turtle Reproduction, & by Species: Musk/Mud Turtles, Other Sliders/Emydids (Pond, Painted...), Softshells, Snapping Turtles, Mata Matas, Tortoises, & FAQs on Red Ear Sliders: Sliders, Sliders 2, Red Eared Slider Identification, RES Behavior, RES Compatibility, RES Selection, RES Systems, RES Feeding, RES Disease, RES Disease/Health 2, RES Reproduction, & Other Reptiles, Amphibians

Related Articles: Red Eared Slider Care by Darrel Barton, So your turtle has the Flu? Recognising and treating respiratory infections in pet turtles by Neale Monks, Freshwater Livestock

Turtles: ID/Physical Attributes
(i.e., Species ID, Aging, Sexing)
Part 3

To: Part 2, Part 1

by Sue Garrett  







·     Resemble tortoises but more closely related to, and in the same family as semi-aquatics (see above)

·     High-domed, rounded carapace with variable markings and color depending on species

·     Hinged plastron that clamps their shell shut when frightened

·     Toes are only slightly webbed

·     Small to medium size turtles; grow up to 8 long on average

Darrel Barton pic


Turtle identification 10/10/09
Hello :)
A friend of my daughter's found this turtle in the woods. I already scolded him for taking it from its habitat, but now I'm not sure what to do with it.
<Generally best to release it where found, as soon as possible. Ideally, contact your local Fish & Wildlife department to see if a park ranger can take you to an optimal release site away from things like busy roads.>
I am wondering if I should take it to the pet store even though my daughter wants to keep it.
<Certainly shouldn't take it to a pet store. For one thing, wild animals can catch diseases from pet animals, and _vice versa_. On the other hand, staff at a good reptile and amphibian store may well know something about the reptiles local to your bit of the world.>
He is rather small (about as big as the palm of my hand) and the bottom of his shell is a bit soft.
<Appears to be an Eastern Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina. This is a highly variable species, but the dome-like shell, brown colour, and hooked beak are characteristic. The front of the lower shell is hinged, so when the head is pulled back, a trapdoor closes off that part of the shell. Males have red eyes, females brown. I'm assuming you're in the United States somewhere, where this is species is _by far_ the most common terrestrial turtle (what here in England we'd call a tortoise).>
He has a short neck, dark eyes and the bit of yellow colorings that I can see. seem to be much darker at times and DO appear much brighter in photos.
<If the eyes are brown, and this is Terrapene carolina, then "he" is a she.>
He is currently in a large bird cage which we have attempted to convert for his needs. (Frisbee filled with water, dirt for burrowing, half of a potters pot for shelter and "hiding" etc.
<Wild-caught specimens don't especially well in captivity, though you have covered the key things, particularly water. They like to bathe, but the water shouldn't be so deep (or the bowl so steep around the edges) it cannot get out easily. If it gets through the first few weeks, and eats and drinks normally, the species can last a long time in captivity. High humidity is important. Bear this in mind if you decide to keep this animal; kept properly, it'll outlive you! The record for a wild specimen is 138 years, and between 50-100 years seems fairly common. In captivity you can expect upwards of 30 year lifespans, and up to 60 years has been reported.
Like all reptiles, you need to provide a heat source of some sort if you do not plan to hibernate the animal. Generally, hibernating reptiles is tricky unless you have fattened them up carefully beforehand, and I'd recommend against it, at least for the first year. The heat source of choice is a lamp, and it should be one that produces UV-B as well as heat, because they need UV-B to synthesise Vitamin B1 and convert calcium into bone and shell.
In short: they need a big vivarium, a bathing pool, a source of heat, and a source of UV-B. This will be fairly expensive to pull together, and while there's no rush, you will need to have all these bits and pieces before it starts getting too cold. In the wild your Box Turtle would be looking for a resting place to hibernate, somewhere cool, dry, secure from predators and safe from flooding. If you want to keep your turtle, you're going to have to provide a warm, humid alternative.>
He moves very quickly and seems to be quite smart lol. (He found a way out of the cage within a few minutes of putting him in it and we were thankful we were there to see it or we never would have believed it - it's fixed now. - and he already prefers one shelter corner over the other!).
<Shelter is indeed very important. It's also critical to make sure predators, particularly pet dogs, can't get into the cage. Even a "playful" dog could wound or kill a Box Turtle.>
I have attached some photos and am very curious to know what kind of turtle he is, how old, gender etc. and most importantly what he should be eating and what I should do with him.
<As I said, likely Terrapene carolina, probably female if the eyes are brown rather than red. Age difficult to say; seems to be full grown, so could be anything from 10 to 100 years!>
we've tried many types of food (lettuce, bugs, cooked eggs, cooked pork, fruit etc. - so far he seems to prefer the eggs and pork but only ate each of those once along with a small bit of cucumber. He seems to eat one day but not the next.
<Avoid "meat", i.e., anything from a warm blooded animal. The fats in these foods coagulate inside the turtle, causing problems. Instead opt for mostly greens, romaine lettuce and curly lettuce being ideal. Augment with soft fruit (melon, tomato, berries) and offer small amounts of things like earthworms, mealworms, and white fish. Very occasionally you can offer them cooked chicken bones, which seem to go down well, but not too often.>
Thanks in advance for your help.
<If you plan to keep this animal, do spend some time reading up on keeping Eastern Box Turtles in captivity. There are some excellent reptile books available for pet owners, and one of those would be a sound investment.
Keeping reptiles in captivity isn't easy, and not something to do on a whim. It's a shame to capture an animal that can live for 100 years in the wild, and then kill it after a few months through neglect. So, make your choice: buy all the stuff it needs to thrive, or else return the animal from whence it came, ideally after calling the local wildlife bureau in your neighbourhood. Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>


Re: turtle identification 10/10/09
Thank you so much for a speedy reply.
<My pleasure.>
Based on your information, we have decided it would be most fair to this little lady if we called our local wildlife bureau and let her have her chance to live to a ripe old age.
<Good move.>
You have been most helpful.
PS - we Live in Florida, USA. Although we are a very warm and humid state, we do have our cold days in winter so she would still need much care.
<Air temperature all year around should be fine if this animal was kept indoors in a room that wasn't air conditioned. The main thing is to avoid extremes of heat and coldness; anything between 15-30 C should be fine, assuming it has access to water (to keep cool) and a basking lamp (to warm up). But there's no getting around the fact reptiles are all expensive pets in terms of setting up their habitat, even though compared to cats and dogs their long term costs are low (they don't eat much; kept properly, rarely get sick; and don't need such procedures as neutering). Still, they're not pets for everyone. Cheers, Neale.>


A brand new Baby Box Turtle  8/25/09
<Hiya - Darrel here>
I'm Josie. I found this tiny little thing in my garage, covered in cobwebs and dead bugs stuck to her! She is SO skinny and lost one eye! So, of course I had to take her in and settle her in her new home, because she would've died being out there all alone, with only one eye, starving, and only being a baby. I put her in with our 2 year old box turtle that lives in a (supposed to be) sandbox built-in underneath my children's play set.
They have a mini pond and a tomato plant out there. I just found her today.
I know that it's a female because of the cloaca on her tail. I would just like to know what specie she is, because that would help me take care of her. I named her Cyclops since she has one eye.
<What you have there, Josie is a baby box turtle! Cute as a button and right about that size. I wouldn't go as far as to say she's female from anything you can see at that age, but it's as good a guess as male, so
let's go with it.>
<Cyclops appears to be a common box turtle (Terrapene Carolina). She's omnivorous but will prefer meat initially and live food, such as earth worms or snails when she can catch them. She needs fruits and leafy greens like Apples and Collards as she grows, so keep offering a little bit of that in the diet. If you offer her small snails, make sure that no one has used any form if snail bait around -- snails absorb it and it is extremely toxic to turtles.>
Write back soon. -Josie


Re: A brand new Baby Box Turtle 08/26/09
I have been trying to feed her lettuce, tomatoes, apples and grapes along with Lexi, our older turtle, but she won't eat them.
<Be careful with lettuce. Collards are good, as are mustard greens, etc. Romaine is BARELY O.K. and Iceberg is between useless to actually bad for them>
We always fed Lexi fruits and veggies. I did not know that they prefer live food.
<As they get older, they tend more toward a vegetable diet, but it's unusual to find a Terrapene that won't hunt an earthworm if offered.>
Cyclops is always avoiding Lexi, and our other terrapin, Fredrica, when I put them together.
<What kind is Fredrica?>
Any advice about that? Thanks for the other info
<Cyclops is frightened, for one thing. For another, turtles are not social animals. They live in colonies many times (colony is a geographical area to which they confine themselves and therefore often cross paths) but
except for mating they mainly ignore or tolerate each other. What I'm trying to say is that Cyclops is not going to get companionship or moral support by being with others of her own kind. In fact, if an adult male
encounters a sub-adult male they've been known to attack them>
<My suggestion is that you make a sub partition for Cyclops -- just for a while. Let her get used to being out in the world again. You might try giving her a slightly warm shallow bath for 10 minutes and then offering
her a tiny bit of cat food on the end of a toothpick. That's how I get my baby box turtles to start eating when they're "stuck">
Write back soon. -Josie
<Done-- Darrel>


Re: A brand new Baby Box Turtle 8/27/09
Thank you so much for all your help!
<Yer welcome!!>
You gave me so much good advice!
<YES WE DID! It's why we're here!>
I will do the sub partition.
<Thank you for TAKING the good advice -- you'd be amazed how many people asked it and then don't>


What kind of turtle is this?   6/5/07
<Hi right back!)
My son found a turtle in our front yard. How can I tell what kind of turtle it is and if it is male/female? I brought it to my vet ( I was on my way there anyway) and they weren't sure what kind it is.
<Well, there's our first problem. If a veterinarian who has seen the turtle can't tell you then we here at the Media aren't going to be able to help you without seeing it.>
I've been trying to find pictures on line of different kinds of turtle, but can't find any.
<Well, let's keep at it, OK? Can you send us a picture taken with a digital camera or cell phone cam? That would give us a place to start. Here's another: http://www.xupstart.com/wwm any of those look familiar? Help us to help you and we'll get there together!>
I found info about care though.
<Let's hold up on that, shall we? If we don't know if it's a turtle, terrapin or tortoise, we may not have the right care instructions. For now .... dry & warm, OK?>
<you're welcome - Darrel!>


Re: What kind of turtle is this?   6/5/07
<Hi Again!>
I sent a note last night and now I'm sending some pictures of a turtle my son found.
<Note to readers: Cathy sent a link to a private site containing pictures, so we can't share the pics with you. Nothing personal.>
Can you tell me what kind of turtle this is?
<Sure -- that is a Box Turtle! Possibly an "Ornate Box Turtle" Terrapene ornata>
We'd like to keep it as a pet, but want to make sure we are giving it the proper care.
<Cathy - you've found one of the absolute coolest and most fun turtles to have! They are intelligent, personable little guys with distinct and individual personalities and preferences and they're one of the lowest maintenance pets a person can have. He'll be very tolerant of any mistakes you might make and there are very few dangers with Box Turtles.>
I found info on line but need to know what kind it is so that we
are doing the right thing.
<First, he's a land turtle. He likes water but he doesn't swim very well or even often, so all he needs is a shallow pan of clean water where he can drink and lounge. He's very tolerant of temperatures and can live happily in almost an temperature that humans like. He can have a hanging light bulb over a portion of his box or even a heating pad in one area. He'll eat a wide variety of foods from flower petals to succulent fruits & berries to earthworms -- and this is the only thing you really have to watch for: They can very easily get "hooked" on something like melon or strawberry or such and refuse all other foods, so make sure you feed him a constant variety. Don't feed him dog or cat food, crickets or any kind of mealworms - these are all foods he'll love, that are NOT good for him but can cause him to refuse other food... and trust me, he can refuse food a LOT longer than you could stand to see him not eat.>
Thanks so much!
<I'm glad we got to the bottom of this!>

Re: That's a Box Turtle!   6/5/07
Thanks Crew!
<No problem>
I'm so glad we found out what kind of turtle he or she is.
<It makes like easier for the turtle, too! One possibility is that it's an Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) in which case the lack of red or orange eyes would indicate she's a girl.>
Should I feed him any kind of meat? I got a turtle book and they mentioned
raw beef or dog food (like a chicken variety). Should I do this?
<No. When I wrote "no dog or cat food" that would include all flavors of dog food.>
I knew about the fruits but what about vegetable?
<The key to a happy Box turtle is variation in diet. Melon or banana today, then perhaps collard or chard on Thursday and then maybe ONE earthworm (night crawler - available at most pet stores) on Saturday. Feed her no more than three times a week, in the morning. Feed her HALF as much as you think she needs and remove all uneaten food at the end of the day.>
Thanks so much!
<Di nada>



Old Box Turtle  5/26/06
My name is Stacy I am 14.
Hi Stacey, Pufferpunk here.>
My sisters boyfriend found this box turtle on the side of the road on a rainy day.  When he got home he gave me the turtle.  I noticed that my turtle has 2 holes in her shell.  
<This is common with older turtles.  Had some shell damage in the past but should be fine & be able to live a long life with this.>
On his right back leg that he only has 1 nail on it and the other has all 3.
<Yes, you have a 3-toed box turtle with 1 deformed foot.  No issues there.>
I was wondering what I could do to fix everything that's wrong with her.
<Nothing to fix.  Just things that happen to a turtle in the wild.  Be sure to give it at least a 20 gallon tank, with a shelter on one side (an overturned box with the side cut out will do & a water bowl large enough for it to bathe in on the other side.  Be sure to change the water daily, or it will be drinking poop water.  Mulch is a great substrate for them.  It's cheap & you can buy large bags even at most gas stations during gardening season. Just make sure not to use cedar, it poisonous!  Change every 2 weeks & hand clean any poop daily (most will be in the water).  You will also need a reflector lamp for warmth.  
Food: dark green veggies (no iceberg lettuce--mostly water), any fruits.  Frozen mixed veggies (defrosted 1st, of course) work well.  So do fruit cocktail, well rinsed, for quick feedings.  They love red foods.  Canned dog food or dry soaked in water.  Crickets & earthworms (found in wild-box turtles tummies when dissected), are a favorite treat.  Dust the food with reptile vitamins (be sure they have calcium in there, for the shell).
If kept properly, a box turtle can live over 30 years!  ~PP>
Thanks a lot, Stacy Cline


Box Turtle Lost In Washington State 8/20/05
I'm in Spokane, Wa. and I was driving home when I found a turtle sitting in  
the middle of the road. That's really odd, due to the fact that I, personally,
am about 5 miles from the nearest water source other than a hose spigot. I'm
not  sure what type or what to do about it.
It's about 6" long, dark brown shell, with yellow markings. This may sound  
really stupid, but I know absolutely nothing about turtles, but the skin is  
rough and has small red "flecks", if you will. His shell, (if it is a he), is  
about 3.5" high. I really don't know what else to tell you, but I also want to  
know how to care for it and so forth. I'm really worried that some poor kid
is  probably worried sick that their pet turtle is missing. Any advice at all
is  welcome. Thanks for your time, Katlin and "Bogart"
< Sounds like a little box turtle lost his way. Keep him in an aquarium /terrarium setup of about 40 gallon size (3Ft). They must have water that they can get in and out of. They need a basking spot on land with a good heat/sun lamp. They love snails but will eat many fruits and vegetables. They live for a very, very long time with proper care. Do a google search on box turtles and you will be busy reading for hours.-Chuck>




Genus:  Glyptemys


·     Carapace is dark brown/black, domed and rectangular in shape

·     Scutes often have prominent rings; sometimes a chestnut sunburst pattern can be seen in each scute

·     Plastron has a pattern of cream and black notches

·     Body color is dark with an orange-red wash on inside of legs of some individuals

·     Head is dark brown and matches the shell; has a bright yellow, orange, or red spot on each side of its head/neck

·     Smallest species of turtle in N. America; ave. only 4 as adults




Glyptemys insculpta

·     Sculptured-like carapace with pyramidal scutes; ranges from tan to brown in coloration

·     Plastron is typically yellow with black blotches on outside edge of each scute

·     Underside of forelegs often range from yellow to reddish in color

·     Neck and tail may be similar in color to forelegs; head may be speckled with faint yellow dots

·     Can reach carapace length of 6-9


ID A Poor Swimming Turtle  07/02/06
Hi, For about a year we've had two semi-aquatic turtles bought as babies from someone that did not know what type they were. We first ID'd them as Reeve's Turtles because they seemed to have 3 keels on their shells, long tails, and were very poor swimmers. (In fact they can't cope at all with water deeper than their heads; if they can't reach a pellet, they will "jump" rather than swim up to it, and generally speaking their hind legs never leave the bottom. I even tried giving them some supervised "swimming lessons" in case the shallow water had just made them lazy, but they're hopeless.) The few pictures we could find of young Reeve's were not a perfect match for ours, but didn't seem to rule it out.
We have recently discovered them mating at night, leading us to conclude that one is male and one female. They have a pretty violent mating habit in which the male reaches down with his very long neck and bites the female's neck. He has actually caused her wounds. By looking up that habit, we came across a S. American species, Geoffroy's Side-Necked Turtle, the images of which seemed to be a much closer match for our two.  But the description of Geoffroy's is wrong in two ways: they don't retract their heads "sideways" in the way the Side-Neck's name implies, and they are definitely not "excellent swimmers."
They have seemed happy and healthy being treated more or less the same as our RES but with shallower water, but we're still curious as to what they are. Any ideas? Thanks! Phil & Diya
<Look at the American Wood turtle (Clemmys insculpta ). This may be an outdated name, but you should find plenty of info by Googling the common name. Very cool turtle and may also be rare depending on the subspecies.-Chuck>   <Darrel Besides a Wood or Reeves Turtle, is it possible that these could have been (imported) Mata Mata turtles?  I mention this partly because of the queriers comment about their necks and side neck turtles, 3 keels, and the fact theyre poor swimmers.  If so, I may want to move this FAQ under that species instead as they are quite different turtles than Wood Turtles.>  [Images attached, including one showing them as babies.  Hope the files aren't too big.] <<Nope, just unfortunately not saved... RMF>>


Rare Wood Turtle Needs Proper TLC  - 06/07/2006
Hello Crew,
I just saw Brandon Heuyard's  turtle pix  & post of 4-11-2006 post . It is a woodland turtle,...rare,  possibly threatened. It is semi
aquatic, lives near stream & rivers. Needs a lot of good care, fresh water for soak immersion which must be changed daily suggest & right
after defecation, food is berries fruit, earth  worms, fresh lean beef cut up small. If one wants  to keep  one, I suggest  reading up on them, food, habitat & very important hibernation requirement for continued well being. Not a child's fun pet , but a serious custody only. I do not
know how to reach  & am not figure out how to access  forum. Please post & you may share email address with him. Ellen < eplanner(AT)ix(DOT)netcom(DOT)com <<Replace the (AT) with @ and the (DOT)s with . - just trying to avoid someone getting spammed.  -Sabrina>>>
< Thank you for your concern and we will post on the site for all to read.-Chuck>


Suspected semi-aquatic wood turtle of genus Clemmys 4/11/06

(Original heading:  Identification Issue, turtle  - 4/11/2006)

Dear Crew:
Greetings and Salutations.  As a general rule I keep snakes; however, I  managed to acquire a "turtle."  This was more of an animal surrender as he was not being fed well, possibly was dehydrated, and just didn't seem to be in optimum health.  It is my goal to remedy that unfortunate situation, Besides, my daughter immediately fell in love with him.  Here is my question, what type of turtle is it?  I have been on the search for information and just cannot seem to definitively identify the little guy.  For the time being he is in a 20 gallon tank, nice hide spot, new UV lighting, and a dish of water that he can submerge his entire body while still being able to get out of it.  He is very active, likes to climb, and has spent some time soaking in his water bowl.  After his soak I had to clean his carapace and noticed that he does have color.  I really think it is a painted turtle.  The person who surrendered it thought it was a "woodland" turtle from Canada?  I am not sure where she received her information.  He has been a pet for 15 years, and I believe he has not been kept in a truly 50-50 aquatic situation.  I am sending pictures ( I pray they are not too large).  I am hoping that you can help me identify this little guy; I want to be able to provide the best possible environment for him.
<Mmm, looks like a color-variant (due to upbringing) of an Eastern Painted Turtle to me (Chrysemys picta)... have never heard of or seen such a thing as a "Canadian Woodland" turtle>
Again I apologize if I broke the picture rules.  
Any help you may be able to offer would be appreciated.
Brandon C. Heuyard


Turtle ID FAQ on 4/10/06
Dear Fearless Leader, I was unable to open the picture sent for the following question so I sent it back to the freshwater section. After seeing
it today on the main website it definitely looks like a semi-aquatic wood turtle in the genus Clemmys. It actually may be a very endangered Clemmys
muhlenberg. See ya in a couple of weeks.-Chuck
<Yikes... will amend. Danke. BobF>



South American Wood Turtle
I am having trouble finding anything on the Suriname wood turtle. Is it the same as the North American turtle?
<No, totally different species.>
And also what type of habitat, food they need to have for a long healthy live. thank you for your time
< Your semi-aquatic (Rhinoclemys punctularia) will need an area that is partial aquarium and partial terrarium. They can be kept like regular wood turtles except that they need to be kept between 75 and 85 degrees. North American turtles are sometimes cooled down for hibernation. Do a Google search on the scientific name or South American Wood Turtle and you will find lots of info on your turtle.-Chuck>












·     Many species; vary considerably in terms of size and color

·     Most have high domed shell with pyramidal scutes

·     Columnar, elephant-shaped legs

·     Many species can become very large in size with shell lengths up to several feet


turtle id 10/24/09
Can you please id this turtle shell. Thanks in advance!
<Hello Pat. While I'd hazard a guess this is some species of Testudo, or perhaps Geochelone, beyond that I can't offer any kind of helpful answer without extra data. It's certainly what here in England we call a  "tortoise" -- that is, a terrestrial rather than freshwater/brackish water "terrapin" or a marine "sea turtle" (in British English, the three kinds of chelonian are separated, rather than lumped under the single word "turtle", even though etymologically, "turtle" and "tortoise" mean the same thing).

Identifying chelonians from their shells alone is a bit of a fine art since there's much variation. We're primarily fish people here, and while Darrel and I are probably familiar with the more common freshwater turtles/terrapins kept as pets, your chelonian shell isn't one of those species. I'd suggest getting in touch with the herpetological department of your nearest zoo or natural history museum and finding out if they can
help. Cheers, Neale.>





Need help w/ turtle i.d.-what to do??  5/24/10
Hi - -
I'm hoping you can assist me. I had posted this on another site but, alas, after 95 hits nobody left me any info. We just want to do what's best for this little guy.
<Tis good>
About a week ago this turtle showed up in our backyard. Not sure how he got there since we're all fenced in. He's a little over a foot long. Last Sunday 'Tommy Turtle' found his way into our pool. We've fished him out several times and given him some other water options but he's determined to be lounging in the pool.
We don't know of anyone in our neighborhood that had a pet turtle but we do live near a big pond; could he of traveled from there?
We would like to know what kind he is and if he should be taken back to the pond.
<Mmm... maybe. There's a chance that this animal is a "lost pet"... that wandered out of a yard, perhaps while the owner was cleaning its system... or allowing it a bit of UV/Sunlight for the day... I'd try posting some "Lost Turtle" posters about the neighborhood, perhaps listing this animal on Craig's List for your locality>
Of course, our daughters would love to keep him but with how big he is I'm not sure if we could give him all that he needs or even what that would entail.
<Easy enough to do... Read here:
by Darrel... the care of this species is identical>
Any help would be appreciated. Thank you!
<Oh, I believe this is a painted turtle... Maybe Chrysemys picta. Bob Fenner> 

Re: Need help w/ turtle i.d.-what to do??  5/24/10
Bob - -
Thank you so much for the info. I did check out the link for the care of an RES, however, is an indoor enclosure an option for 'Tommy'?
<Oh yes>
He seems A LOT bigger than the turtles in the pics. We will definitely put some signs up near the bulk mailbox area to see if anyone has lost their pet. If no one comes forward and we decide that this is not something that we can do, should we take him back to the pond area?
<I would not do this... there is too much chance of this animal being a vector for disease to native wildlife... and being an errant pet, unfamiliar w/ predators>
Is that painted turtle 'native' to Northern California/Sacramento Area (where we live)?
<See the Net re...>
Also the whole pool thing, he just won't stay out. We do have a kiddie pool that we pull out for our dog in the summer time; should we put Tommy in that instead?
<... please read where you were referred... Turtles need specialized care... this species, room to get out of the water, provision of UV light wavelengths, heat... simple foods/feeding...>
I really appreciate all your help. Thank you!
<Please help yourself. Read. BobF>


Which kind of slider turtle? ID    5/23/10
I found your website while doing a search for slider turtles and have a question. My husband brought home a turtle today for our kids, he found this guy under his truck at the water treatment plant where he works. Once home we had no idea what kind of turtle it was so I'm hoping you can help.
I have narrowed it down to the slider, but its not colored like a red-eared or yellow bellied slider. He's got all the same traits other than that one. He's about 7" long (not counting the tail) with the long front claws and webbed back feet, he's green and yellow striped all over and after being submerged in the bathtub he's happy as a clam. I was wondering if there were varying degrees of "red" on the red eared sliders. He's got the solid patch where the ears are, but its more a muddy brown that blends with the rest of his head.
<If it looks very similar to a Red-ear Slider, Trachemys scripta elegans, but lacks the red ear patches, then it is most likely one of the other Trachemys scripta subspecies, such as Trachemys scripta troostii or Trachemys scripta scripta. But it could be one of the related species of Trachemys ("sliders") or Pseudemys ("Cooters"). Without a photo it's difficult to be sure.>
As we live in NC where there's mostly box turtle and snapping turtles, we wanted to find out as much as we could about him. After reading all the upkeep I think we'll probably free him, but I wanted to educate my kids on
this cool turtle before we let him go. There is a nice pond near our home where we would probably let him go, is this right for this turtle??
<Very difficult to say. If he's an escapee, then release into the wild would be risky. Without recognizing predators, or the danger of things like automobiles, he'd not last long. Plus, if he isn't native to your area, releasing him into the wild is not only dangerous for the local environment, but likely against the law, too. It is MUCH better you contact
your local Fish & Wildlife agency or an animal rescue charity, and have them deal with the problem in a the most humane, ecologically sound manner.>
Thanks for the help!
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Which kind of slider turtle? - 5/23/10
Thanks for the names Neale. I Googled both of the kinds you listed and still can't decide. He's very similar to the Cumberland slider with the exception of the spots on the bottom. This one has the 2 centered spots on the belly as with the Trachemys scripta scripta. I'll have to upload some pictures from my camera and send them to you. I'll also contact the local wildlife officer, as we have a park nearby with people to talk to!!
<Very good. The ideal outcome.>
In the meantime, will he be okay in our bathtub for another day or so?

I've been keeping the water above room temp, changing it every few hours so he doesn't get cold.
<In summer this shouldn't be an issue.>
But I have nothing to put in there for him to climb above water level.
<For a day or two, not a problem.>
I'm not sure what to feed him as far as plants but I did read that they can go up to a week without eating. I would rather not starve him though!
<Curly lettuce, raw white fish, cooked prawns are all suitable items.>
Thanks again
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re Slider turtle - 5/24/10
<Ahh, he's "out" today, tomorrow>
this is the slider we have in our tub. This is the best shot I can get of his head, he's really shy unless totally submerged.
Please let me know what you think. I am going to go to the park tomorrow and talk to the wildlife officer and see how best to release him, they might want to keep him! At least I'm hoping so!!!
Thanks again for all the info!
Lori Merritt
<Looks like a healthy, though wild specimen. Good luck, life. Bob Fenner>




Turtle Identification  7/14/2009
Can you all identify this baby turtle for me?
<Yeah -- I think his name is Gary.>
<He might be a baby Box turtle (Terrapene) or any one of a number of Emydid (water) turtles. The problem is that the straight on top angle gives us just a vague outline. We can tell he's not a mud, musk, soft-shell or snapping turtle. Not a Tortoise or a sea turtle. He's not a Clydesdale Horse either, but I suspect you already figured that out.>
<What I'd really like is a couple of face shots and one from the side.
Not glamour shots of course, no hair or makeup needed .. just a better angle to see his distinct features.>
<Unless you mean that OTHER thing .... that's not a turtle at all, that's a quarter!>
<Regards - Darrel>


What kind of turtle is this? 4/30/09
My little girl found this turtle while fishing and wanted to keep it. I would like to know what kind it is so I can give it the proper care it needs.
<Hello James. The photos are too blurry to be able to tell anything much, but it would appear to be a Slider of some sort, Trachemys spp. So the basic requirements are not much different to the popular Red-ear Slider, as outlined here:
Now, before you give in to your daughter, think about how much it costs to keep one of these. Most Sliders are big and messy, eventually dinner plate-sized animals that need aquaria around 55 gallons in size, if not larger. Beside the tank, you'll need a big external canister filter just to keep the water clean and safe; without it, the water will become cloudy as well as toxic. Minimum, you want a filter rated at 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour; for a 55 gallon system, that's 330 gallons per hour. So, the filter and the aquarium are already setting you back the best part of $200. Next up is a heater (yes, you'll need one, because the turtle won't be able to hibernate in captivity when room temperature drops.
Without a heater, it will quickly become plagued with respiratory tract infections that require care from your vet, not to mention all the other problems reptiles succumb to when they're cold. As if this wasn't enough, you'll also need a basking lamp, specifically a UV-B lamp, without which the turtle will rapidly become sick. It needs UV-B to perform certain chemical reactions associated with bone and shell formation, among other things. All told, you're going to be spending several hundred dollars.
Because turtles grow rapidly, a smaller tank now (say, a 20 gallon system) would need to be upgraded within a couple of years. Finally, there's diet: turtles can't be maintained on "turtle food" from the pet shop, at least, not entirely. You need to augment their diet on a regular basis (i.e., every week) with fresh green foods. While not expensive, quite the contrary in fact, this underlines the fact that Sliders aren't "easy" pets. They're difficult to keep, expensive, and around children at least, potentially hazardous because Salmonella and other bacteria grow easily in their habitats (especially if said habitat isn't kept clean!). They aren't
especially pretty when they mature (most become fairly dull green, and the yellow colour you see now will fade away) and certainly have no interest at all in being handled. What I'm trying to tell you is that you should stop and think EXTREMELY carefully before taking on the burden of a pet turtle.
Much better to observe this animal in the wild -- where it belongs, frankly -- and enjoy it for what it is, a wild animal. Then maybe go with your daughter to a pet shop or book shop, buy a book about keeping pet reptiles, and then decide if you, as a family, are prepared to create a home for these admittedly fascinating animals. Cheers, Neale.>


2 part question about turtles and identification   8/26/08
Dear Crew,
<Hiya -- Darrel here>
Ok, so this is a two part question, first what kind of turtle is this??
<Oh dear .. if I'd known there was going to be a test I'd have studied!!>
<When I first looked at the pictures my sense was that it was a Rhinoclemys (a South American Wood Turtle). When young their carapace (top shell) is fairly flat and somewhat resembling an Pseudemys (the slider families) and as they mature it becomes more domed like a Box Turtle (Terrapene). In this case, Google is your friend. Try Rhinoclemys T  Terrapene and reeves turtle and see what you think>
I got him from a lady who was not taking care of her and she gave her to me. After cleaning her up I put her in my 100gal tank with my RES who is a male (very long claws) who I have had for about a year, and is just a little smaller then the new turtle.
<Not sure the new kid on the block is an aquatic turtle though -- from most aspects it appears to be semi-aquatic at best and needs more dry land. Your identification from more comparison photos will tell all.>
The other day I noticed my RES vibrating his legs in her face, so he wants to mate with her, so if you know what kind of turtle this is, are they close enough for them to mate or is he barking up the wrong tree?
<Yes, in this case my guess is that you're shaving the wrong beard, to make a different metaphor>
thanks for your help!
<I'm also passing your pictures along to a more learned colleague for his opinion. Neale?>



2 part question... Turtle ID, cross-breeding?   -08/27/08
Ok, so this is a two part question, first what kind of turtle is this??
<I have absolutely no idea. The fact the shell is domed rather than flat implies its either an amphibious or fully terrestrial species rather than a truly aquatic species. The front feet appear to lack webbing, but the back feed are webbed, so again, I'd tend to go with some type of amphibious rather than truly aquatic species. I would be keeping this species in an enclosure with equal amounts of water and land, and I'd also make sure the water wasn't too deep. But I really think you need to get in touch with a dedicated Chelonian support/rehoming site such as Turtle Homes:
They have contacts and resources for identifying "mystery" Chelonians.>
I got him from a lady who was not taking care of her and she gave her to me. After cleaning her up I put her in my 100gal tank with my RES who is a male (very long claws) who I have had for about a year, and is just a little smaller then the new turtle. the other day I noticed my RES vibrating his legs in her face, so he wants to mate with her, so if you know what kind of turtle this is, are they close enough for them to mate or is he barking up the wrong tree? thanks for your help!
<They are absolutely not the same species! Male Red-ear Sliders will attempt to mate with anything. So long as he isn't harassing her, I wouldn't worry too much. Cheers, Neale.>


What Kind of Turtle Is This? 5/3/08
I found this terrapin (or turtle) in my garage. He was literally hitting the door. When I first looked out I didn't see anyone but the next time I went out the front door and into the garage and this is what I found. Please identify. What does he eat. I plan to let him go. He's got inch long finger nails and the back feet are kinda webbed. Mary in Arkansas
<Hello Mary. It's difficult to ID this beast without seeing the head more clearly, but I'm fairly sure that it is either the Yellow Bellied Slider (Trachemys scripta scripta) or the Red Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans). As their names suggest, the difference between them is that one has red flashes on the sides of the head, and the other doesn't. Basic care is identical. Nice pets, but if you're not up to homing the terrapin in question, then get in touch with your local Fish & Wildlife department or Humane Society for information. Red eared Sliders are at least native to your state, in which case the Fish & Wildlife department may be able to tell you where to safely release the animal back into the wild (if that's the species in question). The Arkansas Herpetological Society may also be able to help.
Cheers, Neale.>

Re: What Kind of Turtle Is This? 5/3/08
Thanks Neale, I just wanted to be sure this wasn't an endangered species. I live out in the country and will probably just let it go in my woods. There is a creek about 200 yards away. Maybe I can get a better picture of the head. I'm anxious to let him go. It's probably ready to catch some bugs, or whatever it eats. Mary in AR
<Hi Mary. Please confirm with your Fish & Wildlife department before releasing the animal. While it may be a wild animal, it could equally easily be an escaped pet from a nearby home. Pet animals can carry diseases that seriously harm wildlife, and they can also cause problems by disrupting natural ecosystems. Pet animals may be less adept at finding food and escaping from predators, so that's another issue. Putting the turtle in a box with a shallow bowl of water for drinking is really all it needs for a few days. Starvation isn't an issue, so don't worry about that. (It eats mostly plants, as it happens, rather than bugs.) While I'm fairly sure your beastie is merely a wild animal that took a wrong turn on its travels, you can't be too careful, so check before letting it go. Cheers, Neale.>


Re: What Kind of Turtle Is This? 5/3/08
Thanks Neale, I have sent pictures to the address you sent -
Waiting for a reply. Mary in AR
<Cool. Good luck, Neale.>


Baby turtle identification & care 07/24/07
<Hi there -- Darrel here>
Well my aunt got me a turtle while going fishing.
<I'll take that to mean she brought BACK a turtle from her fishing trip>
It's very small. I think it's a baby or that's just how there species look, but to the point it just started eating its food today and it's been having this clear floating stuff on it, and it wont come off.
<Sounds like it might be a fungus, but 'clear floating stuff' is a little vague. Is it soft, like dead skin or hard, like a film on the shell? Please write back with a more detailed description>
And what type of items am I suppose to put in there with it? I just don't know what to do.
<Try this link to get an idea of basic care: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/RESCareBarton.htm
and try this link to see if you can identify what it looks like:
Hope this helps>


Turtle ID Needed   9/6/06
Hi. I live in PA and recently found a turtle which I am planning to release, but I would like to know what kind it is first to find the proper location site. I have searched and have had no luck! The turtle has a black or dark green shell with no spots. It has a orangish belly with yellow stripes on the neck and red spotted/stripped legs! See what I mean she is complicated. Could you please help me? I want to do what is best for her.
P.S she has a flat belly so I assumed she was a female!
your help would be much appreciated thank you.
< Do a google search on Eastern or Midland Painted Turtle. Both are found in your area. Once you find a picture then you can determine which one you have.-Chuck>


Sexing An Unknown Turtle Species   8/19/06
HI. I have 2 gammarus turtles and I want to know if they are boy or girl can you help me? ana
< Don't know what a gammarus turtle is? Gammarus is a shrimp often used as food for turtles and fish. A good photo might help with the ID.-Chuck>


Red Eared Slider? 2/24/04
<Hi, Pufferpunk here>
I have a turtle and I don't know what kind it is.
<1st of all, I must insist you write in sentences & use capital letters when necessary.  All the questions sent to us are posted on our website & I have to take a lot of time to correct this, before I can send it on to the site.  This takes time away from answering other questions.>
I need to find out because I have a project that I have to do.
<What kind of project?>
It is about the size of a half dollar and it has kind of diamond shapes in the middle of its shell. It has like brownish red by its ears. It is green and yellow do you know what kind it is?
<It sounds like a red-eared slider.  Is this your turtle? http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/nature/wild/reptiles/slider.htm>
I could really use some help!
<I'm surprised you were able to purchase this turtle at that size.  It is illegal to purchase aquatic turtles under 5", due to their carrying salmonella bacteria.  Good luck with your project.  I hope it is not harmful to the turtle in any way.  These turtles need clean filtered water.  They need a lot of swimming room, & a piece of land to bask on, with a heat lamp above.  Small strips of fish, krill, shrimp, crickets & worms are what they like to eat.  They also need a source of minerals for their shell, by vitamins & a sulfa rock in the water.  ~PP>


Source to identify unknown turtles

(Original heading:  Turtle Tank Goodies)

Hi umm,
<Gage here, but you can call me umm if you want to.>
This is my first time ever owning a turtle. I got it from a friend, I'm not sure on the sex, or even what kind it is exactly.
<I'd be willing to bet it is a red eared slider, but cannot say without a picture.  Tons of info on turtles online - http://www.tortoisetrust.org is a good one>
I've had this turtle for about 9 months, almost 10 now. I was cleaning out the filter and the tank today, and there were all these very tiny little seashells all over the place, and I have no idea where they're coming from. Do you have any idea where they could be forming from? They're sort of coned shape, and looks like there's something in them, but they're so small it's hard to tell. Well I hope you can help me...thanks -megs
<Most likely they are snails.  Snail eggs have sneaky way of getting into your tank, nothing to worry about. -Gage 

To: Part 2, Part 1

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