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Species Description

Eastern Box Turtle

Terrapene carolina


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Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Family: Emydidae

Description

The carapace is brown with highly variable pattern of yellow or orangish markings. The plastron is tan to dark brown, with or without pattern. The skin ranges from brown to black with variable markings. The iris of the eye is red in adult males and yellowish brown in females. Adults range from 11.5 - 15 cm (4.5 - 5.9 in) in shell length. The largest on record was 19.8 cm (7.8 in). The Eastern Box Turtle is probably one of our most familiar terrestrial turtles. The high-domed carapace and the hinged plastron are characteristic of the Box Turtle.

Life Cycle

Mating can occur anytime between March and October. Females nest from May through July. From 1 - 11 (usually 4 - 5) eggs are laid in a flask-shaped nest chamber that is 7.5 - 10 cm (3 - 3.9 in) in depth. The nest chamber is dug into an open, elevated, sandy or loamy site. The eggs hatch within 70 - 80 days, usually in September through October. Hatchling turtles frequently overwinter in the nest cavity and emerge the following spring. Hatchlings typically range in size from 2.6 - 3.3 cm (1 - 1.3 in) in length. Females can store sperm and produce eggs as much as 4 years after the last mating. Sexual maturity is reached at 5 - 10 years of age. The estimated average lifespan for this turtle is 30 - 40 years. However, there are reports of individuals over 100 years old, and the oldest on record lived 138 years.

Natural History

A resident of forests with numerous clearings and forest edges, this species inhabits hardwood, pine, and mixed hardwood-pine forests. The Eastern Box Turtle is a diurnal omnivore. Its diet includes fruits, mushrooms, grasses, insects, spiders, slugs, snails, earthworms, carrion, and small vertebrates. Known predators of its eggs and young include skunks, foxes, raccoons, crows, snakes, owls, and hawks. Predators upon the Box Turtle adults include raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes, and wild hogs. To avoid freezing temperatures, the Eastern Box Turtle burrows into loose soil, old stump holes, mammal burrows, or the mud of shallow pond and stream bottoms.

Range

Eastern Box Turtle Region Map The Eastern Box Turtle ranges throughout the state of Georgia. The species is found from Massachusetts west to eastern Kansas and Texas and throughout the southeastern United States.

Conservation Status

The Eastern Box Turtle is fairly common in Georgia.

Similar Species

The Gopher Tortoise does not have a hinged plastron, is much larger, and lacks any color markings on the shell or skin.