Teachers with Classroom Turtles

by Anita Peddicord, State & Federal Permitted Wildlife Rehabilitator

Attention Teachers with Classroom Turtles!

Did you know you could be killing your turtles if they are kept inside in tanks?

1. Mature female land & water turtles MUST have access to land to lay eggs in! A water turtle is stressed if it is laying eggs in the water. Most will not lay unless outside and allowed to dig. Most kept indoors will retain their eggs. Turtles can be particular about where they lay eggs and will sometimes dig several holes.

2. Females can lay infertile eggs even if they've never been with a male!

3. Egg binding is serious. It can cause infection & DEATH.

If you do not know the sex of your turtles, you need to find out!

Many male water turtles have very long front toenails and will stick their front legs forward toward another turtles face and flutter their nails during courtship. The one receiving the flutter could be either sex. A female will never exhibit this fluttering behavior, but young males will flutter before females AND other males.

Male water turtles will also have longer thicker tails than the females. The cloaca (vent) will be closer to the body on a female and the male's cloaca will be farther from the body beyond the edge of the carapace (upper shell).

To see some photos please see this link: Sexing Water Turtles These photos would also be good for sexing cooters and red-eared sliders.

To sex box turtles, please see this link: Sexing Box Turtles

Do you know that artificial UVB lights are NOT an equal substitute for unfiltered sunlight? (window glass filters out beneficial UVB rays)

Turtles kept inside never exposed to direct, unfiltered sunlight will eventually develop vitamin & mineral
deficiencies leading to illness. Using supplements can be dangerous.

Are you only feeding your turtle 1 or 2 items? Turtles need variety in their diet to stay healthy.

Most pet stores are either ignorant of turtle requirements or just want the money you have to pay for commercial
food, expensive lights & aquariums.

Would you lock a child in a room with no books, computers, games or TV for the rest of their life? NO, that would be abuse!

The above scenario is what it is like for a turtle kept in an aquarium for the rest of its life! It is inhumane. Turtles love & need sunlight & outdoor space for digging, laying eggs, stalking & eating bugs & worms in order to have a healthy, stimulating, quality life.

This is how your classroom turtle should be laying her eggs. Land & water turtles lay their eggs in dirt.


Red-eared Slider (Scripta elegans)
(Click for larger image)

Stinkpot/Common Musk Turtle
(Sternotherus odoratus)
(Click for larger image)


The musk turtle is basking outside absorbing vital UVB from the Sun. This is needed for proper Calcium absorption & to prevent shell infections.

Ask us about how to set up a natural outdoor habitat for your turtle at YOUR school. Schools can usually obtain grants for this. They are a great way to teach kids about proper turtle care AND science!

Here are just a few of the many sources where grants can be obtained:

  • Lowe's Outdoor Classroom Grant Program
  • EPA Environmental Education Grant Program
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Grant Program

    Copyright (c) 2007 Gulf Coast Turtle and Tortoise Society
    Permission is granted to copy for non-profit use with proper credit given. For any other use you must obtain permission.

    Gulf Coast Turtle and Tortoise Society
    1227 Whitestone Lane
    Houston, TX 77073
    Email us for quickest response:
    info-L@gctts.org

    http://www.gctts.org