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Tags: turtles, claws, Biology, reptiles, Chicago Academy of Sciences, look-in lab, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Created: 4/3/2013      Updated: 8/10/2016

We strive to give our Box Turtles a rich and diverse diet, which provides them with good calcium sources to ensure that they develop strong shells. Of course along with strong shells this also means they grow strong nails.

Closeup of turtle foot

Normally a turtle would be digging and scratching around outside in dirt and rocks and naturally wear their nails down. We do give our turtles lots of time outside in the summer but at this time of the year they are kept indoors and only get to dig in soft substrate. So what to do with those long nails?

That is where the ‘mani, pedi service’ comes in.

Staff members filing a turtle's nails



We used Claire for these photos, as she is by far the most calm about having her nails trimmed. We use a standard rotating nail file, which is intended for dogs’ nails.

As with most things involving turtles, this is a two-person job. One person to catch and hold the leg and the other person to file the nails.

Staff members filing turtle's nails

I did mention that Claire was the most cooperative of our turtles during this process. She accepts what we are doing and just watches reproachfully.

Pretty Girl and Kennicott show what they think of things by peeing as much as possible! Charlie and Opal will try and sneak a quick bite, if a finger should happen to come within reach. And Manny? Well Manny is like a madman! He has to have a board held between his head and our hands, which he attacks viciously. I wonder do the ladies who work in nail salons usually end up bleeding after giving their customers a manicure? At the end of the process, we clean our various scratches and bites and the turtles have nicely manicured nails.

Closeup of nail filing

Celeste Troon, Director of Living Collections

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