Eastern box turtle

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Project Description

Eastern Box Turtle

Terrapene carolina carolina

Range/Geographical Distribution: From Massachusetts to Georgia and west to Michigan, Illinois, and Tennessee.

Habitat: Open forests, shrubby grasslands, meadows, and thickets. 

Description: A small land turtle with a large variation in shell color and pattern.  The domed carapace and hinged plastron may be yellow or orange or olive on a black or brown background.  Males usually have red eyes whereas females’ eyes are brown.  Hatchlings are plain brown with a yellow spot on each large scute. 

Size: Can reach a carapace length of six inches.

Food: Earthworms, snails, grubs, beetles, caterpillars, grasses, fallen fruit, mushrooms, flowers, and carrion.

Breeding: Females lay one to ten eggs in a nest excavated in sandy soil from May to July.  Hatchlings emerge after 70-80 days of incubation.

Predators: Raccoons, foxes, possums, crows, boar, dogs, and introduced fire ants.

Conservation Status: Listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Threatened by habitat loss, pollution, and vehicular strikes.  Also still collected for personal pets although large-scale removal for the pet trade has stopped.

Interesting Facts: The eastern box turtle is one of six subspecies of the common box turtle.  Although predominately terrestrial, box turtles often “soak” themselves in mud or shallow water.  Female box turtles can store sperm for up to four years and therefore do not mate yearly. 

On the Coast: Eastern box turtles are found in maritime forests along the Georgia coast.  They may also be seen crossing roads during nesting season.

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