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box turtle 3

An Eastern Box Turtle lumbered across the old homestead yesterday, pausing long enough to pose for some pictures. These turtles (scientific name Terrapene Carolina carolina) are common in the Carolinas (hence the name, I guess).  When I was young we would sometimes find one and keep it as a pet for a week or two.  We would put it in a terrarium with a water bowl and feed it lettuce and crickets. Because they are rather boring in captivity, we would always release them back into the wild.


Box turtles are cool reptiles because they have a hinged plastron (the lower part of the shell) and can close it up snugly against the upper shell when they feel threatened. Its a very effective defense mechanism. When Jingles was about two years old she found a box turtle in the back yard and barked at it for hours until she lost her voice. When she eventually lost interest, the turtle opened up and went on its merry way, none the worse for the experience.

box turtle 2

This one was a female. You can tell because the female has a flat plastron, while the male’s is concave to allow it to more easily mount the female during mating. (Sorry, I didn’t think to take a photo at an angle to show the plastron.)

I did learn something from this visitor: taking a good photo of a box turtle requires a lot of patience.

Do you have any interesting turtles where you live?


17 Responses

  1. We have turtles in the lake behind our house. But we dont get to see anything but their head swimming.

  2. What great pictures and interesting information.

  3. Thanks for reminding of our summer vacations in Missouri as a kid. There were a lot terrapins everywhere. Here in Ohio I guess we are too far north for them.

  4. Thanks for sharing that info about box turtles!
    I have never seen one in my life!
    Kisses and hugs

  5. Nice looking turtle. While box turtles may be common in the Carolinas, they’re endangered in Massachusetts and should be in a number of other states. Even in the Carolinas, their numbers are declining.

    The problems turtles face include habitat destruction, roads, lawn mowers, nest predation by urban/suburban predators (Raccoons, skunks, opossums, etc.), and collecting by people who take them home as pets or release them elsewhere (sometimes with the best of intentions.) They’re intelligent and territorial, so moving them out of their home range will usually lead them to wander.

    The best thing to do if you find a turtle in the road is to take it across in the direction it was headed and release it about 30-50 feet from the roadside.

    For the poster from Ohio, they do live that far North.

    Here’s a link to a very good website dealing with issues in box turtle conservation.


    Sorry if this is too much information, but these wonderful, ancient creatures deserve to be protected.

    • Thank you, Mark. I was unaware of the decline of the box turtle. After reading your comments and visiting the link you provided, I must confess I feel a little guilty about keeping them as pets, even if it was 40 years ago.

  6. What a lovely critter

  7. When we lived in Victoria in a dairy farming area we would often see dead ones on the roads, they lived in the dams on the farms. I hated seeing them run over. I came across one still alive once but his shell had been crushed by a car. I had to it it out of its misery with a whack on the head with a bit of wood. It was necessary but still a horrible thing to have to do. Poor little thing. They are harmless & beautiful creatures so it’s terrible to see that happen to them

  8. It’s amazing how resilient turtles can be. I recently saw a snapper with severe shell fractures and a deep wound. She went to a rehabber and was treated. It will take about two years for her to recover fully, but she will.

    If you find an injured turtle, the best thing to do is take her to a rehabber or vet with some expertise. Even if the turtle doesn’t make it, it may be possible to save her eggs (most road-killed turtles are females looking for nest sites.) If the eggs are viable, the hatchlings can be head-started and/or released in appropriate habitat.

  9. My Daddy used to bring these thangs home frum the place ware he wurked and take care of them fer a bit. He sed it wuz cause they needed sum vaitamins wutever those are. They stayed in our yard and it wuz the rool dawgs may not tuch them!! But shh dont tell but I mebbe sniffed them a little bits.

    Yer pal Dozer

  10. Lovely blog! Thanks for the visit.

  11. I don’t think I have ever seen a turtle in the wild! Love the photos and information.

  12. We found an Eastern Painted Turtle in the woods a few months ago. It was really cool, a nice deviation from the “usual” wildlife we see around here.

  13. Thanks for visiting my blog! We rarely have turtles here in our area, because it is way too dry. But sometimes they just show up out of nowhere! 🙂

  14. Boy oh boy, if we had box turtles here I’d be jumping for joy. Everything in the chestnut forest either stays in hiding or moves way too fast for me to get a decent photo. The doxie would just luuuuuv barking at this little gal!

  15. I see these all the time here in south Georgia woods. They are really cool turtles.

  16. Snapping turtle soup is delicious!… if you make it right.

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