Eastern Box Turtle Terrapene carolina carolina

8 Interesting Facts About Eastern Box Turtles

>>  Like other reptiles, box turtles must hibernate during cold winter weather. They burrow deep under the soil and leaves, sometime in October, and usually emerge in April or early May.

>>  When disturbed or frightened, most box turtles will pull in their head and legs and tightly close the shell, remaining hidden until the threat of danger is past. The shell is extremely tough and almost impossible to pry open when closed. Young box turtles do not develop the hinge for closing their shell until they are about 4 to 5 years old.

>>  Although they are still common in many areas, box turtles have declined over much of their range, probably due largely to habitat destruction by man. Many box turtles are killed as they cross highways. Dogs sometimes catch box turtles and chew their shells, resulting in injury and eventual death to the turtle. Many are also hit by lawn mowers as the turtles hide in tall grass and weeds.

>>  Most Eastern box turtles have permanent home ranges. Juvenile turtles often have small, temporary home areas that grow larger as they age. If relocated, a box turtle will often attempt to return to its home area.

>>  Eastern box turtles are diurnal. During the day, the box turtle will forage for food, search for mates, and explore territory. At night, it rests in shallow forms that are scooped out at dusk.

>>  Box turtles are unable to tolerate high temperatures, and in the summer are most active in the morning or after periods of rain.

>>  During the midday, box turtles become less active and seek shade. Also, they will burrow into rotten logs, leaf piles, or mud to avoid the heat.

>>  Eastern box turtles can retain water better than aquatic turtles. This allows them to cope with short dry spells.

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IDENTIFYING CHARACTERISTICS:

The high-domed shell is the most prominent feature of the box turtle. Closer examination reveals that the lower shell, called the plastron, is hinged, enabling the shell to be closed much like a box. Both the upper shell, called the carapace, and the plastron, are typically dark brown to black in color with many varying streaks, spots, and lines of yellow and orange. Older specimens often have very smooth and worn shells with little coloration. The head, neck, and legs of the box turtle are also brightly colored with yellow and orange, particularly in the males. Male box turtles usually have bright red or orange colored eyes while the eyes of the females are usually dark red or brown. Male box turtles also have a slight depression in the middle of their lower shells while that of the female’s is flat. Overall length of most adult box turtles is about 5 to 6 inches. It has 4 toes on the hind foot.

RANGE:

The Eastern box turtle ranges across the eastern half of the United States.

HABITAT:

Box turtles can be found in a variety of habitats from fields to forests, although they seem to prefer moist situations when possible. During hot, dry weather, box turtles will often seek out springs and seepages where they dig deeply into the cool mud. They spend much of their time buried in the leaves and dirt of the forest floor, emerging to feed, especially after or during rainstorms.

NESTING:

Female box turtles seek out sunny areas where they lay their eggs in the warm soil by excavating a cavity with their hind feet. Although box turtles are active during daylight hours, the females often use the protective cover of darkness to lay their eggs. After laying from 3 to 6 eggs, the nest is covered with soil and the eggs left to hatch on their own. Box turtles usually lay their eggs during June and July. Hatching takes between 2 and 3 months. Sometimes if the turtles hatch late in the season, they may overwinter in the nest and then emerge the following spring. Due to their small size and lack of the bright coloration found on the adults, young box turtles are seldom seen. Adult box turtles often live 30 to 40 years or more in the wild and some are believed to have reached 100 years or more.

FEEDING HABITS:

Box turtles eat many kinds of plant and animal material including berries, mushrooms, earthworms, slugs, snails, and insects.

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