Eastern Box Turtle

Genus: Terrapene
Species: carolina

Baby Eastern Box Turtle crosses the NWF entryway

Description:  Eastern box turtles are one of the most commonly seen turtles in the wild. In most cases, if you see a turtle walking around on land, it’s either a box turtle or a wood turtle. The easiest way to tell them apart is that wood turtles have a very flat shell, while box turtles have a domed shell.

Eastern box turtles are about 5 to 6 inches long. The shell is domed shaped and covers most of the body.  The shell also has ridges and furrows that develop with age.

There are several subspecies of eastern box turtles that come in different colors. Some eastern box turtles have brown shells, while others have olive-brown shells with decorative yellow markings. Most of the eastern box turtles you see will have yellow markings on their dark feet and face. However, some individuals have no yellow markings at all.

The upper part of the eastern box turtle’s mouth is slightly hooked.

Box turtles like warm weather, but if it gets too hot, they will seek some protection from the sun. In the heat of the day, they will hide under logs or leaves or take a swim in a pond. If it is not too hot, then you’ll find eastern box turtles searching for their next meal or basking.

Although eastern box turtles are native to the eastern United States, they can sometimes be seen in other states. The reason is that people release them into the wild. Box turtles are very popular pets, and sometimes when people do not want them anymore, or they move, the owners releases the turtles into the wild. This might seem helpful to the turtle, but in reality, you are releasing a domestic animal into a new and different environment. Do not release pets into the wild, but instead, drop them off at a local animal shelter or veterinarian.

Range: Look for eastern box turtles near ponds, fields, meadows, and woodlands throughout the eastern half of the United States.

  • Fun Fact
    Box turtles will eat berries, insects, roots, flowers, eggs and amphibians—basically, anything they can catch and fit in their mouths.
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