Gulf Coast Box Turtle: Ultimate Guide

Gulf Coast box turtles, they are one of the most sought-after pets in the country and are the largest common box turtles that you can currently get on the market. They really love splashing around in the water, although you cannot consider them to be fully aquatic.

The turtles are generally considered to be a little bit cantankerous. They do not like to be handled and might not be the best pet if you have small children around. These can be very nippy, so you might want them for a large terrarium or an outdoor setup.

These turtles really thrive on insects and if you want a creature that will live exactly as it would in the wild, then you should definitely consider getting this animal.

So exactly where can you find one of these amazing snapping creatures? What unique attributes do they have that make them such cool pets? How can you be sure that they won’t snap at you when you try to handle them? How can you give them a happy life? Where is it best to keep them? How much will they cost?

Well, if you want the answer to these questions and a whole lot more then we would recommend that you read on. Not only will these turtles really brighten up any outdoor aquarium you have, but they are real beasts that won’t take any messing around.

Male Vs. Female

Generally, the female box turtle will have straight and black toes, with claws that are not as curly as the male. The tales of the males are usually longer and more pointed than the females.

The males usually have a much more domed shell than the female, with a slightly greener head, while the female traditionally has a browner head. The male will also have a lot more red and orange markings on the face than the females.

The males will traditionally be a lot more aggressive than the females, which will be more evident during the mating season. You will also find yourself having to feed the male turtle a lot more as their appetites are generally bigger than the females.


As we have mentioned above, these box turtle species are much larger than other species. They have much larger upper bodies, with dark brown and yellow stripes of blotches on the shell.

These turtles are not aquatic, so you will often not see them fully submerged in the water. However, they do love to be near water and you can often find them in marshy areas where they will be feeding on insects and other larger types of bug.

As mentioned above, the females have slightly straighter claws than the male, which are traditionally a lot sharper. The males also have more speckles on the face and the shell, which is one of the main ways that owners use to identify them.

You can often find these turtles along the Gulf of Mexico. They really like hot climates that are very humid, so we would recommend replicating this type of environment in your indoor aquarium.

As a Pet

These pets are very tricky customers and there are actually laws in some states that prevent the capture of wild Gulf Coast box turtles. You should try and purchase one of these creatures that have been raised in captivity, as this will get you around certain legal issues and will probably result in a more relaxed disposition.

You can keep these animals in an indoor terrarium, although you will have to make sure that you have the right amount of heat from your heat lamps. You will do better to put these turtles and their hatchlings in an outdoor pen, where they will thrive a lot more naturally.

Experts recommend that you should have at least 4 x 4 feet on your terrarium, although you will definitely need more room if you have more than one turtle. You should try and combine a mixture of direct sunlight and shady spots in this pen, as the turtle will enjoy a mix of both.

You’ll also need to be hyper-vigilant of these turtles, as they do tend to burrow into the ground. You’ll need to make sure there are foundations under your pen to make sure that your turtles cannot escape. It’s best if you create a screen so that the turtles cannot see what is outside the cage and are not inclined to go digging for escape.


In the wild, these turtles live for a very long time, some people stating that they can get to the ripe old age of 100 years. There have even been reports that some of these turtles, in the wild, can live up to 138 years old.

However, in captivity, their age will be dramatically reduced.You can only expect your turtles to live up until they’re 40 years old. This is because the habitat is not the same as the outdoors and the foods and parasites that it will be subject to will be dramatically different.


This turtle has developed beak-like jaws that will help it to crush vines and insects. It has also developed binocular vision that will help it to see forward, rather than side-to-side. This is because in the wild a lot of predators will come at it, rather than attack from the sides.

The female has also developed sharper claws that allow her to defend herself when she is being attacked during nesting. The female turtles with the sharpest claws went on to protect their offspring better, which caused them to flourish and continue on that line.

Breeding Season

If you are breeding your box turtles, you can expect your animals to be ready around the beginning of spring, in March or early April time. You should make sure to keep your breeders separate, as they can get very aggressive during this period.


The female box turtles will lay several clutches of around 5 eggs during her lifetime. They usually hatch anywhere between 70 and 120 days, depending on the climate and the environment.

Growth Rate

These animals will usually grow up to 5 to 7 inches in length, although the longest box turtles on record have been shown to be around 8.5 inches in length.

Life Cycle

The life cycle of the box turtle will be around 40 years in captivity. You can make sure that your turtle lasts a lot longer by keeping the parasites to an absolute minimum.


The habitat of the box turtle has significantly reduced in the last 40-50 years, which has caused a rapid decline of their numbers. The number of turtles is said to have dipped from 10,000 to 2,500 in that time.


These turtles would prefer to eat live bugs rather than dead ones. They should have a mixture of plants and meat in their diet. We would recommend keeping these animals outdoors during most of the year, so that they can hunt their own insects.


Because of this amazing animal’s ability to retreat into its shell, it can protect itself well from predators. However, that is not to say that some animals don’t try: raccoons, chipmunks, skunks, coyotes, snakes and owls are amongst this animal’s biggest predators.

Roaming Range

This turtle can cover around 50 yards on an average day. This means that you are sure to have at least a few feet of roaming space.


These turtles can succumb to parasites that can burrow under their skin and cause significant damage and inflammation. Make sure to take them to the vet regularly to check if they haven’t got parasites.

Eye Color

The male box turtle has red eyes, whereas the female has brown.


This turtle has grown accustomed to living in warm temperatures, and can usually be found in places where it is warm most of the year round. In captivity, when it does get cold, your turtle will retreat into a small sheltered area.

Can They Swim?

These turtles are not regarded as aquatic, but they have been known to swim to escape danger.

Care Costs

You can expect to spend around $50 on a box turtle, and it will probably cost you around $20 a month to take care of. If you are keeping your turtle in an outdoor terrarium, then you probably won’t have to sort out that many bugs.

Fun Facts

  • This turtle has been known to live up to 138 years old in the wild.
  • It won’t just eat insects and plants, it has also been known to chow down on berries and fruit. Try introducing fruit into this animal’s diet to keep it happy.