Strawberry Friday – 3 Toed Box Turtle
A Gift Named Strawberry Friday
Her name is Strawberry Friday, and she has lived with me for about 4 years. Here is her story.
A colleague told me that her son had found a tortoise just walking down the sidewalk and brought it home. Now, we live in Rawlins, Wyoming, and there are no tortoise species native to this area. She looked for an owner, and finding none kept the tortoise at her house. When her kids got bored with the animal, she offered to give it to me. I am a fan of tortoises, so I agreed to take the animal even though the woman had no idea what kind of tortoise it was.
She brought the animal to me in a shoebox, on March 1, 2013, a lovely Friday morning at work. When I lifted the box lid and found a box turtle instead of a tortoise, I was overjoyed. Why? Because I lived in Kansas for a long time, seeing box turtles along the sides of roads, some living, some already fallen victim to traffic.
The box turtles I saw in Kansas were Ornate box turtles, and I could tell that this was not an Ornate. I posted a photo of her on a forum and was informed that she was a very old wild-caught 3-Toed box turtle. It was also clear that she was an LTC – Long-Term Captive. Wild-caught because her shell is formed beautifully, like that of a wild box turtle. Old because her shell is rather scarred all over, with signs of long-healed wounds and disease. Long-term captive because she is very wise to the ways of humans, and because her shell shows evidence of having been painted twice.
Caring for Strawberry Friday
Strawberry Friday is attentive when people appear above her enclosure. She knows well that good food appears when people appear. At feeding time in the morning she comes running for a night crawler or two. She also closes her shell up tight when handled.
Her enclosure is the Extra-Large Vision tub, measuring 6’x3’ inside dimensions. The substrate is bioactive with organic garden soil 5-6 inches deep. She has a warm end with a heat lamp over a basking area and a water dish large enough for her to get in. There are two sun lamps over the rest of the space and several plants growing. In addition to the night crawlers we feed her, I periodically release a whole tub of night crawlers into the soil. There is also a thriving population of roly-poly bugs. Friday can grab a worm snack on her own occasionally, a roly-poly bug whenever she wants. We also give her squash, some lettuce, bok choy, pretty much whatever veggie we’re eating. Strawberries are a very rare treat.
Each year in late fall Strawberry Friday has dug herself into the substrate and hibernated for a couple of months. It’s a great day each spring when she emerges into the light and starts eating again! We are having an unusually warm February and she emerged a couple of weeks ago. March is predicted to be colder and it would not be surprising for her to dig in and sleep it out.
While my husband and I both adore Strawberry Friday, I can’t recommend box turtles as pets. This is because the setup can be expensive and takes a lot of space. Because there isn’t a lot of interaction, people get bored with them. If you are blessed with a box turtle, play the part of benevolent being well and take the best care possible of your little reptile friend.