Eastern Box Turtle

Terrepene carolina carolina

Length 4 1/2 - 6 inches. Highly domed carapace. Color and pattern of carapace highly variable in tones of brown, black, yellow and orange. Plastron is hinged, allowing the shell to be sealed tight for protection. Hatchlings are half-dollar size with a plastron that is flatter, brown and without adult pattern. A line of pale spots may run down the vertebral scutes.

Found in open woodlands, meadows and wetland edges.

Box turtles' omnivorous diet includes earthworms, slugs, carrion, berries, fallen fruit and even poisonous mushrooms.

Though some box turtles have home ranges of fewer than ten acres, tracking studies show that many also travel significant distances. Brumation is spent burrowed into the ground starting in mid to late October, with spring emergence starting around late April. Little is known about the first few years of life, which are spent out of sight, likely staying under leaf litter.

Box turtle populations continue to decline throughout New England. Causes include road mortality; destruction of nests by raccoons and other predators; agricultural and mowing machinery; collection for pets. Because box turtles may need seven or more years before nesting and because clutch size is so small, decimated populations have little chance of quickly recoving.

Box turtles have protected status in all New England states.

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Michael Jones (UMASS Amherst) continues his work with Wood Turtles. Learn more.

Liz Willey (UMASS Amherst) continues her research on Eastern Box Turtles. Learn more.

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Eastern Box Turtle
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