Eastern Box Turtle
Grows to 8 in. (20 cm.) in length. Short, high-domed brightly marked (brown with yellowish or orange markings) carapace with marginals nearly vertical or only slightly flared. Tan to dark brown plastron, plain or patterned with blotches. Head is small to moderate in size with non-protruding snout and a medially hooked upper jaw. Four toes on each hind foot. Males have longer/thicker tails, a concave plastrons and red irises. Females have a flat plastron and yellowish-brown irises.
Range/ Habitat: From southern Maine, south to Georgia, and west to Michigan, Illinois and Tennessee. Prefers open woodlands, pastures, and marshy meadows.
Diet in the Wild: Omnivorous. Mainly carnivorous when young, more herbivorous with age. Eats snails, worms, insects, spiders, frogs, snakes, lizards, small mammals, carrion and plants.
Over 90% of diet in the wild is plant material however do not eat green leaves.
Diet in the Zoo: Mixed fruit and vegetables everyday. They also receive crickets or super worms once a week.
Predators: Birds of Prey, Crows, Coyotes, Snapping Turtles, domestic cats, foxes, opossums, raccoons, skunks, snakes.
Life cycle and social structure: 3-8 elliptical white eggs are laid in flask-shaped nests in light soil. Several clutches are laid each year. Normally 75-90 days incubation are needed before hatching.
Life Span: Box turtles can live 20-30 years in the wild. In captivity have been observed living upwards of 50 years.
May lay viable eggs for up to 4 years after mating; semen is stored in glands in the oviducts. In northern climes, they hibernate in October or November by burrowing into loose soil, mud, or mammal burrows. As soil temperature drops, they burrow deeper. Male box turtles have a concave plastron to facilitate mating. In both sexes the plastron has a hinge between the pectoral and abdominal scutes which divides it into two movable lobes. This allows them to withdraw their head, legs and tail within the shell and close completely to the outside world. Males have red eyes and females have yellow/brown eyes. Many box turtles try to run from predators before hiding in their shell, and because of this it is common to see them in the wild without limbs. The temperature of the box turtle’s next will determine the sex of the offspring. Nests that are 22-27 degrees C tend to be males, and those above 28 degrees tend to be female.
Their populations are decreasing due to the pet trade, and habitat destruction and fragmentation. Many states protect their native box turtles and do not allow collection.
What You Can Do: Don’t litter and make sure to recycle. Research your pet and make sure that you purchase from a responsible, captive breeder.
Ernst, Carl and Barbour, Roger. 1989. Turtles of the World, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., pp. 194-196.