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Sluggo, You Have to Eat!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

One of the scary things about reptiles, at least to me, is that they can go a very long time without eating. And they do. It's never good when a patient won't eat. For someone like me, who loves her charges and her babies, her friends and family with food, it's doubly upsetting.

Every day for two weeks I put tempting food right in front of that turtle. Twice a day. He'd look at it, sometimes even crane his neck, but he stolidly refused to take a bite. I tried bananas, peaches, watermelon, mealworms, earthworms, black raspberries, blueberries and slugs. Slugs are like candy to box turtles.

I went out with my headlamp, breathing the clouds of midges and gnats who were attracted to it, and hunted slugs at night. I put melon rinds out as bait and gathered them, keeping them in a little slug farm in the living room. You have one, don't you? I feed mine lettuce and spent daylily flowers.

These are Arion subfuscus, an imported European slug. Don't ask me why we have imported slugs here. We just do. Not surprisingly, they vastly outnumber our old gray slugs. 

And the turkle would look at them and let them crawl right by. Until the day when I offered two slugs on a nice piece of bark from the forest floor, which was covered with fresh earthy-smelling loam. The turtle's head shot out and he craned his neck and bam! he grabbed a slug. And then a second.

I was so excited I took these photos from across the room with my 300 mm. lens, just to document this Gandhi of turtles, digging in. He was so skittish I couldn't let him see me.

After that magic moment, no slug was safe around Sluggo. My theory is that the scent of fresh loam reminded him of home, and stimulated his appetite. 


I was one relieved turtle nurse when Sluggo finally lived up to his name.


Awesome post about feeding your turtle. You're a turtle concierge! He's lucky to have you.

I love to see a native devouring exotics.
We have loam envy here in sand land.

Did you jump up and down and cheer without making a sound? Relief.

Hmmm, I will have to rethink my fantasy dinner--you know, who would you most like to have dinner with. I usually answer either Helen Mirren or Julie Zickefoose
But with slugs on the menu, with a side of fresh loam, maybe rethinking...

Excellent! Happy for you and Sluggo! You're very dedicated to run a slug farm for him. Our box turtle loved cherry tomatoes. He would roll them around his tank until he cornered one and then bite it with an explosion of juice and seeds. He most always had dried tomato seeds on his beak.

So glad he has decided to eat! You are a very good care giver going all out to help that little thing eat! I knew they liked melon and fruits but no idea about slugs. A new respect for them here! I think Sluggo is on the mend!

Now I feel guilty for never giving Fidgit, our Chinese Box Turtle, slugs. For some reason, he has a decided preference for strawberries on whole wheat bread.

"One Relieved Turtle Nurse" would be a great name for a book. And I'd love to see what Sluggo would do with one of our banana slugs that's as big as he is.

Bon appetit, Sluggo! Good work nurse! :)

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Posted by Anonymous July 31, 2011 at 10:10 AM

I love your caretaking dedication. Sluggo is one lucky beneficiary of such love. Yay Sluggo!

Yo, Sluggo, next time ask for a li'l salsa with that...

Yeah for Sluggo!!!
I love turtles!!

Just stopped by from seeing your site on blog of note..congrats on that BTW! You have a really fun and interesting blog that I'll follow. I'm in Ohio too, in Ashland up north from you...maybe I should get a few box turtles for slugs who live on my plants!

Bravo Slugo. Eat more and get well soon ;)

Thanks for the tip on how to catch a tastier meal for the pet turtle. My nephew loves turtles, but they always seem to get a little disinterested in turtle pellets and lettuce. When they stop wanting to eat, we always encourage him to let them go back into the wild so they want get sick and die. I'm so glad that I read your post. Thanks!

Dear Bella,

Sounds like your system is working fine. Turtles belong in the wild, and if taken in as "pets," swiftly released exactly where they were found. The days of treating native turtles as pets or toys are long gone. Believe me, I did enough of that as a kid--and it's the unknowing damage I did that makes me an impassioned turtle advocate today.

Good for you, Sluggo! When they're off food, it's always a worry to know how long they can safely hold out. That first bite, though, is like releasing the dam.
Sometimes a liquid diet or putting them in a dish with liquid food gets them started. I use their collection of shot glasses and sake glasses (the latter for less waste) and hold the turtle, tipping the head toward the "turtle soup" (i.e., soup FOR turtles) or smoothie. Some ingredients: strawberries, yogurt, banana, ground dry commercial box turtle food, pureed winter squash, pureed turtle beans, prepared baby foods, soy milk, etc. in a drinkable consistency. I won't put slugs in the blender--can you imagine trying to clean it?--though I think I added a nightcrawler once. Yuk.
With a turtle as skittish as Sluggo this cup trick probably won't work, but if a turtle has learned trust before the needle, it's worth a try.

Like ive said i have a huge soft spot for turtles. Even the large snappers that i had seen so much of when i lived in Florida, i just wouldnt put my hands near one thats all. Richard

That seems impressive. I wonder how it was done.

Nice pictures ;-)

And a very good post

This is such a lovely post!
That turtle obviously dosent pay you enough for your services!

How this is possible?

Terrific! A milestone in his recovery - eating.

I am so interested in reading any available research on the web about a Box Turtle's home range ..... and how they know it, learn it .... how their memory of it adjusts to changes within it ....

I live on ~9 acres and I document the shell markings of the Box Turtles I see here - to note their comings and goings. I have only been doing that since 2005.....

but my mowing practices here have forever taken into account the fact that wildlife is here .... mowing where I can see what I am doing .... mowing at the hottest time of day when creatures shelter elsewhere.

Keep up the great work and the sharing - it is invaluable.

Good luck to you Sluggo! - from this StayAtHomeKat

What a great blog! So glad it made blogs of note.

I wrote a blog a while back about my new found appreciation for reptiles:


I will read more later, but now I see that a BLOG does not need to be boring.

Interested in Denmark ? see me in facebook or here, if you please

I am working with Interior Design

I like sluggo the turtle, Ive done some art with turtles and tortise

Posted by Anonymous May 17, 2014 at 1:23 PM
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