For the most part turtles are veracious eaters that choose to dine on a variety of items.  Every now and again there is a turtle that is a little stubborn and will not readily accept non-living food items.  I have outlined some of the things I do that have helped me get some of my turtles eating pellets and other items.

        One item that will help you cross your turtle’s eating habits over is a pair of forceps, tweezers, or reptile feeding tongs.  This will help you feed your turtle both living and non-living food.  I start feeding them different worms, such as wax worms or meal worms, to the turtle with tweezers.  Once they are used to being fed with the tweezers I will begin feeding freeze dried insects.  If you use meal worms you can try to trick them by starting feeding the turtle living worms and then trying to give them freeze dried meal worms after a bit.  After they have eaten a few living worms you may throw a few in the water to float around.  After a little bit they may scavenge around and find them.  They may bite them but not eat them at first but after a little time they should start eating them. 

        If you have a readily available supply of crickets you can try throwing some live crickets in the tank.  Crickets can swim on the surface and their swimming about should attract your turtle.  Your turtle should chase them down but make sure the crickets can’t get out of your enclosure, as they can climb up on basking docks and jump out of the tank.  Once your turtle is used to eating the live crickets you can try throwing in some freeze dried crickets and seeing if they will go for them.

        Turtles are attracted to movement and this is why turtles are attracted to live prey.  When feeding them non-living food items use this to your advantage and try to move the food in such a way it will attract the turtles.  By mimicking the way insects and other living prey move they will be attracted to the item, as they believe it is living.  Don’t be afraid to let some freeze dried meal worms sit in the tank for a little while.  Eventually they will be hungry/curious and try some of them out.

        Once you get them going on non-living food items you can use some of the same methods to get them eating commercial turtle pellets.  I start by holding a food pellet in the tweezers and moving it, trying to get the turtle to try some.  If you feed your turtle by hand or with tweezers they will be attracted to the site of them.  This is because they quickly become conditioned to think that your hand or tweezers equals food.  You can use this to your advantage as they will be looking to the tweezers for food, they will eventually bite at the pellet to see if it is some tasty food.  It may take some tries to get your turtle eating the pellets but eventually they should. 

        You can also wean you turtle off of the high protein foods such as meal worms and crickets by mixing in pellets with these insects when you feed them, each time giving a few more pellets and fewer insects.  This is important because feeding too many high protein foods, such as freeze dried insects and shrimp, can cause your turtle to grow faster than it normally would and can also cause deformities to occur.  You may have to force your turtle to stop eating high protein foods by not offering them even if they will not eat anything else.  In this case you will need to stop offering the high protein food and only offer foods with lower protein.  Eventually the turtle will begin to eat the lower protein food.  Turtles will naturally go for foods with higher protein but if none is present they will turn to other food sources of lower protein.

Now that it is spring time it allows observers a chance to see many turtles in their natural setting.  If you look in the right spot you may find one or up to a dozen or more turtles basking at a sight.  The key is to not frighten them if you want to catch them basking and get in for a closer look.  Turtles do not have the greatest hearing but if you cause too much of a commotion moving in closer to them they will take off into the water.  Turtles also have good eye sight and may spot you from a good distance away.  If you take your time, move a little slower and more deliberately it should help you get in a bit closer.  You may want to take a camera with you so you can take pictures of any good looking turtles you find.  Also if you cannot identify the turtle then you can use the photos at a later date to find out the species using a field guide.  It may also be helpful to study the local species you may run into as this will make identification much easier in the field.  Above all else remember to keep your eyes open and looking for turtles and other life forms.  Good luck to everyone in the 2012 field herping season and hopefully everyone finds some great specimens.

These following pictures are from outings I have had at my local park district lake from 3/26/12 to 4/06/12.  These pictures are only a small portion of what I saw on my outings.
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