Note. This is some of the background research for my Turtle Trilogy. I’ve had a lot of people interested in turtles!
I mentioned that I had some more information on pet water turtles from my old friend Rosa, a fellow turtle lover, but that it was misplaced. This morning, while I was looking for something entirely different, I came across it. Since a lot of you are turtle lovers, I thought you might be interested.
It all started because I was doing research for the turtles I was writing about in my books. I reached out to Rosa who (at the time, anyway) kept pet turtles. What I learned was far more than I could ever imagine. It’s quite a long email, so I’ll just highlight the main portions of her message:
Unhappy with the food safety of the commercial turtle foods that had been found (at that time) to contain chicken meat that contained salmonella, she began to investigate what kinds of food turtles might eat in the wild. Meanwhile, as a city dweller, she tried feeding her pets hamburger and worms. Along the way, she discovered that they did not like night crawlers (a kind of Northwest worm). She also used lettuce and tomatoes, and occasional cat food. Along the way to improving her turtles’ diets, she discovered from her pets’ veterinarian that cat food is very rich so she switched to dog food.
Turtles, she said can survive on eating very little, so she stopped feeding them daily; she stayed away from food that had preservatives.
She added that she got plant lights because turtles had to be kept above 70 degrees or they stopped digesting their food and could starve to death on a full stomach!
She has now branched out into different kinds of turtles. What I learned from Rosa is that pet turtles take more care than a person might think. Also, the pet turtles I had when I was a kid never had a chance.
As a five-year-old, I knew nothing about the care and feeding of pet turtles. The chapters in my fictional autobiography (A Three-Turtle Summer) are true. All three of my pet turtles died. The deaths of the first two were puzzling, but I dropped the third turtle in a snow bank and it was never found. I’m guessing that turtle did not have a 70 degree environment!
In closing, I must add that I do not believe in keeping pet turtles in captivity. They are marvelous creatures that deserve to be free.