Everything You Need to Know About Box Turtles

Posted by Samantha Bubar

Native to the United States and Mexico, the box turtle is not for beginner reptile keepers.

With complex habitat requirements, North American box turtles are best for experienced reptile keepers, especially since they can live to 100 years! The average lifespan for the Terrapene genus is 50 years, which is pretty incredible. Quality box turtle care is imperative for a long life!

Box turtles, when handled from a young age, are very docile. While it is important to handle them when they are young, it is just as important not to handle them too frequently as they are easily stressed. They shouldn’t be housed in glass enclosures, as they may obsessively try to get through the glass.

Box turtles need exposure to sunlight or appropriate lighting in their turtle habitat. In the wild they eat mainly insects and plant matter, as well as berries and fruits that fall to the ground. The diet of adult turtles in captivity should resemble their varied diet in the wild. Young box turtles require more protein (insects) than adults. Male turtles can usually be distinguished by female turtles by their red or orange eyes.

Wild turtles can be found throughout the United States and North America, and many states even recognize the turtle as their state animal. North Carolina and Tennessee and the eastern box turtle as their state animal, Missouri recognizes the three-toed box turtle, and Kansas honors the ornate box turtle.

The different box turtle species include:

  • Terrapene carolina (Common box turtle)
    • Subspecies in this category include the Florida box turtle, Eastern box turtle, Gulf Coast box turtle, Mexican box turtle, three-toed box turtle, and the Yucatan box turtle.
  • Terrapene coahuila (Coahuilan box turtle or aquatic box turtle)
  • Terrapene nelsoni (Spotted box turtle)
  • Terrapene ornata (Ornate box turtle)
    • Subspecies in this category also include the desert box turtle

Hover over the image for more information.

Shell

Box turtles are identified by their domed shell. Their shell is hinged at the bottom so they can tightly close themselves off from predators.

Feet

Box turtles toes are slightly webbed with claws to allow them to dig and burrow.

Tails

Box turtles have little stubby tails that are pointed at the end.

Color Variation

Box turtles range from dark brown to tan and yellows. Some types of box turtles have stripes and spots.

Mouth

The box turtle's upper jaw is slightly hooked.

Eyes

Males typically have red or orange colored eyes, while females have yellowish brown eyes.

 

Do you have a turtle? Show us in the comments below!

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Everything You Need to Know About Box Turtles