Box Turtle Behavior In Captivity [Know What To Expect]

Box Turtle Behavior In Captivity

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Box turtle is one of the most comfortable species for pet keeping. But before getting a box turtle, the turtle owner should have minimum knowledge about its behavior. The owner may face a problem later if he does not understand the pet’s comfort zone.

Captive box turtle’s behavior is different from the wild one. These differences are reflected because of the environmental inequalities.

I have been raising box turtles for years now. As an owner, I have noticed box turtles captive behavior very nearly. In this article, I will illustrate the captive box turtle’s behavior, and what makes them different from the wild ones.

Behavior Of A Box Turtle In Captive

Box turtles are diurnal. Diurnal means they are more active in the daytime than nights. They are most active around dawn and dusk.

They tend to spend their time in foraging and eating. Adult box turtles sometimes confined in mating.

Unlike humans and other species, box turtles can not control their body temperature. We know that box turtles do not prefer extreme temperatures, and they get affected by the surrounding.

In extreme heat, box turtles prefer staying inside a shed or hiding place. These places are cooler than most of the enclosure. In extreme cold, they tend to hibernate or burrow.

Box turtles do not prefer companions, but they are friendly with humans. Captive box turtles get used to humans, and so they do not bite. They will not bite unless they are stressed, or someone is irritating them, or they are hungry. Sometimes box turtles hurt the owner’s forefinger, thinking it as a meal.

Box turtles can not get adapted to the glass. If you are putting your box turtle in a glass tank or an aquarium, it will try to escape. Box turtles think the glass is an invisible wall, and they can go through it.

Box turtles are homesick. If your box turtle is not a breed one, it may show unusual behavior. It can show less eagerness in food, and most of the time, it will be engaged in digging a hole.

As I have mentioned before that box turtles prefer solitude, they can engage in fighting, if you are housing multiple box turtle. It occurs mostly for the adult box turtles. Young and female box turtles do not fight. In case of fighting or attacking, the box turtles tend to hide in the shelter or the hiding spot.

Mating Behavior Of Captive Box Turtle

Box turtle has a definite season for mating, but they can engage in mating if the opportunity arises. Their mating season is summer and mid-winter. But they also do these activities after hibernation and in the autumn season.

Captive box turtles are active in mating activities. Adult male box turtles can harass the female box turtles if they want to mate. Many times the turtles dig holes or show stress signals if they want to engage in mating.

Box Turtles Behavior In The Wild

I have already mentioned that box turtles are homesick. So they have a tendency to live near where they are born. They never leave the place or roam around it. If you put it in a different area, it will go back to its home anyhow.

Different predators attack a wild box turtle. Box turtles are small, so in most cases, they try to hide. Box turtles can seal themselves inside the shell to hide from the attackers.

Box turtle is really strong. Its limbs are so strong that you can not make it come out of its shell if it does not want to.

Box turtles prefer to stay alone, and most of the time, it avoids companionship. They generally stay inside the log or bush. While hibernating or aestivating, it burrows in sand or mud.

As box turtles can not regulate their body temperature, they tend to go in hibernation and aestivation in winter and hot summer.

Difference In Captive And Wild Box Turtle’s Behavior

Captive Box Turtle Wild Box Turtle
Captive box turtles show friendly behavior around the human as they are used to it. Wild box turtles are afraid of humans.
Adult male box turtles show aggression towards the female box turtles if they want to mate. Adult male box turtles try to attract the female box turtles in mating seasons.
Captive box turtles can not withstand extreme temperatures. Wild box turtles are more enduring than the captive ones.

3 Reasons Why We Can See Differences Between Box Turtle’s Behavior

Wild box turtle and captive box turtles show some noticeable different behaviors. But why is that? From my point of view, I have found three reasons behind it.

  1. Species
  2. Environment
  3. Nourishment


We know that different box turtles have different habits. Again, most of the time, we choose breed box turtles to keep as a pet. So it can show different behaviors from a wild box turtle.


It creates most of the differences. A wild box turtle has to live on its instinct. It has to fight for its living, and so it presents more survival behaviors.

On the other hand, a captive box turtle lives in an enclosure and gets everything it needs. So they do not have to fight for their survival.


Captive box turtle gets enough food when they need it. They have an enclosure with a comfortable temperature. So they do not fall sick often and live a long life.

Wild box turtles survive on their own and do not get any medications in sickness. So they have a short lifespan and behavior pattern.

3 Tips Can Help If Your Box Turtle Is Showing Abnormal Behavior

Sometimes we can observe unusual behavior in a captive box turtle. For example,

  • Appetite loss
  • Hole digging
  • Less playful

These occur if you do not provide a stable environment to your box turtle or pick up a wild box turtle to keep as a pet. To avoid abnormal behaviors, you can follow some tips.

  1. Do not buy or pick up a wild box turtle. It is not healthy for the turtle, and also it endangers the species. Always buy breed or harvested box turtles to keep as a pet.
  2. Maintain a safe and stable environment for the box turtle.
  3. Do not irritate or force your box turtle with anything.


Box turtles are wonderful pets if you can maintain it. In this article, I tried to explain its behavior. I hope this would help you to build a better relationship with your turtle.

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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