Eastern Box Turtle

Terrapene carolina
Schuylkill Co., September 7, 2003

Do you remember a time when box turtles were commonly seen crossing the road or found walking along a forest path? This isn't the case anymore throughout many areas in Pennsylvania. Box turtles all over the country are declining and becoming more difficult to find. Several factors contribute to this decline. Both habitat loss and fragmentation have thinned populations throughout their range. Habitat loss and fragmentation have, in turn, led to increased road mortality which has further decimated many populations.

Finally, well-intentioned people continue "killing with kindness." If you see a box turtle on the road and want to help, simply move it several feet off the road. Box turtles have well defined home ranges. Many times if a box turtle is taken out of its home range, to the backyard behind the person's house who is "saving" it, it will wander aimlessly as it searches for its old home. This ultimately may lead to the turtle's death.

The box turtle (Terrepene carolina) is one of the most well-known and recognizable species of turtle in the eastern United States. It received its namesake because its hinged plastron allows the turtle to completely withdrawal within its shell. Box turtles are omnivorous and feed on a wide range of plant and animal material. Males are distinguishable from females by their concave plastron and more colorful (usually red) eyes. Females have a flat or slightly concave plastron and usually have brown eyes.

An exemplary male plastron, note its concave shape - Schuylkill Co. A typical male box turtle, note the red eyes - Berks Co.
A female plastron - Berks Co. A typical female box turtle, note the brown eyes - Berks Co.


A female box turtle feeding on a mushroom - Berks Co. Note the healed carapace damage - Berks Co.
A box turtle laying her eggs - Berks Co., June 6, 2004 A hatchling box turtle - Berks Co., September 2002

Aqua-Terra has conducted telemetry studies on many box turtles
A blind box turtle - Chester Co., May 2003