Turtle, Eastern Box
Terrapene carolina carolina
Adult length is between 4 and 8 1/2". High-domed, keeled shell may be yellow, orange, olive, black or brown and may have a pattern. Plastron may be tan, dark brown, yellow, orange or olive and may have blotches of color. It is hinged and as long as the carapace, allowing a tight fit when the animal retracts. Males have red eyes, female eyes are yellow-brown. They have short, webless fingers; a small, well developed brain and well developed senses of hearing and smell. They are able to distinguish among colors.
Class: Reptile (Reptilia)
Order: Chelonia Cryptodira
Conservation Education Program AnimalMore Info
Range: New Hampshire to Georgia and west through Tennessee, Illinois and Michigan.
Habitat: Coastal marshes, moist or dry palmetto, pine or deciduous forests, damp or dry fields.
Lifespan: 30 to 40 years but a few may reach up to 100 years
Wild Diet: Omnivorous - slugs, beetle larvae and worms, vegetables, berries. The young are carnivorous; as they age,they become almost totally herbivorous.
Zoo Diet: Canned dog food, raw hamburger, carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, bananas.
They have terrestrial habits generally but also spend time each day soaking in mud or water. In hot, dry weather they burrow under a log or in rotting vegetation. Rain brings them out in large numbers. They are slow moving but avid diggers, changing burrows frequently during the summer. Normally, the male ranges about 330' from the nest and the female 370'. They hibernate in 15" to 18" deep holes. They swallow their food whole and need to swallow small stones to help with digestion. In captivity older males dominate younger males and all females.
They nest in May or June, laying elliptical, thin shelled eggs in a 3-4" deep flask shaped cavity. A female can retain sperm for a number of years, thus producing fertile eggs years after mating. Newborns are the size of a 50 cent piece. They feed off the yolk attached to their navel, and grow 1/2 to 3/4" a year for the first 4 years.
Gestation: Up to 1 year
Litter: 3 to 8 eggs
Conservation Status: Vulnerable
- If a turtle has eaten mushrooms poisonous to man and you eat the turtle's flesh, it may kill you!
- New York Indians used turtle shells for rattles and buried turtles with their dead.
- In late summer, the turtle may eat so much and put on so much fat that it is unable to completely close its shell.
- The Genus name, Terrapene, is American Indian for "a small turtle." The species name, carolina, refers to the state, although the species is not confined to that area. The subspecies name is the same.