Basic Baby Turtle Care

Baby turtle care is quite different from adult turtle care. Babies of any species require a little more attention, and baby turtles are no different.

Wild Baby Turtles
Quite often baby turtles get waylaid or go off course and end up in our backyards, on the street or in other dangerous locations. When we see this, we naturally want to help the baby turtle. When we take a baby turtle out of its environment, however, we become responsible for its care, which can be a demanding project. If you do your research and become educated regarding what a baby turtle will need to thrive, it is your choice whether you want to raise the lost little turtle or not.

The same is true when your adult turtles lay eggs. While it is against the law to sell baby turtles that are less than 4 inches in length, you are well within your rights to raise your own baby turtles.

Caring For A Baby Turtle
Small turtles need space to move around in, but because of their size they can squeeze into areas that can end up being dangerous for them. To guard against this, if you have an outside pen, make sure your turtle pen does not have any areas where a baby turtle can get caught or get out. If you are using a tank, make sure the water filter system is attached on the outside of the tank, maintain a dish of fresh water for drinking, set up an area where the turtle can swim and soak and make sure there is adequate heat.

Baby turtles are smaller and will require special attention when climbing up out of the water or onto a basking platform. Check the turtles' habitat often to make sure nothing is amiss.

You'll also need to feed your baby turtle plenty of protein, along with green plant foods. Feed hatchlings farm-raised worms only, never worms that you found in the wild. If your baby turtle gets parasites from the worms, it may not have enough strength to fight off the parasites, and little can be done to help sick baby turtles. Choose soft-bodied worms such as waxworms and mealworms.

If the turtle pen is located outside, don't leave food dishes or food lying around for several hours, as the rotting food will attract insects. Some insects, such as ants, have the ability to kill a baby turtle.

Turtles And Salmonella
Approximately 90 percent of all reptiles carry the salmonella bacteria. Even if a turtle doesn't appear sick, it can still carry the bacteria in its feces. Follow these tips to avoid salmonella contamination from turtles in your home:

  • Do not allow baby turtles or any reptile in the home where a child under the age of 5 resides, or anyone who has a compromised immune system
  • Always thoroughly wash your hands after handling your turtle or any item from the turtle's pen or tank.
  • Never bring a turtle into the kitchen area or any area where food is being prepared.
  • Pet stores and veterinarians should provide information to anyone who purchases a reptile, especially a small turtle, or who brings a reptile in for medical evaluation.
  • If you are expecting a baby, it is advisable to remove all reptiles, especially baby turtles, from your home immediately.

Holding A Baby Turtle
Because a baby turtle's shell is soft, it is possible to harm or kill a baby turtle by holding it incorrectly. If possible, do not pick up a baby turtle at all, and, if you do, make sure you wash your hands with soap and hot water afterwards. If you do pick up your turtle, do so in this manner: hold the turtle like you would hold a hamburger-with two hands, or at least with your fingers beneath the turtle's shell and your thumb on the top of the shell-not the way you would pick up a hotdog, with just one hand wrapped around it or with fingers on one side of his shell and your thumb on the other. And never squeeze.

Unfortunately, the incorrect way to pick up a turtle is also the easiest way, especially when you have your hands filled with turtle supplies and or turtle food. Alas, the incorrect way can harm the turtle's soft and still forming shell.

Baby Turtle Sales
It is against the law in many areas to sell baby turtles. In the United States, local law enforcement offices and health officials are working with the Food and Drug Administration to help persuade turtle distributors with action that includes, at times, fines of up to $100 for each baby turtle in their possession.

The reason for such vigilance is two-fold. First are the concerns regarding turtles and salmonella. The second reason has to do with the safety of the turtles themselves. Baby turtles are generally purchased illegally through the black market or obtained illegally as an advertising gimmick. Unfortunately, the welfare of the turtles is never taken into consideration, and many die due to mishandling. Even more die when the customer gets tired of taking care of them, passes them on to someone else who also doesn't have a clue how to take care of a turtle or lets them go in the wild. If you or someone you know is aware of illegal sales of baby turtles, turn the responsible party in to local authorities, the Humane Society and the FDA.

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