STATUS IN THE WILD: Vulnerable
RANGE: United States, Canada, and Mexico
PHYSICAL FEATURES AND CHARACTERISTICS
These turtles live on land but tend to live in moist areas. Box turtles have a domed-shaped shell and reach lengths of five to six inches long. They get their name from their ability to completely close their shell, via hinges on it, if faced with a threat. They vary in color and pattern with some having bright markings on the face and feet and other having more dull coloration. Some box turtles have brown shells while others have yellow to orange markings on their shells. Their shells, if injured or damaged, have the ability to regenerate and heal. They have five toes on their front feet and three to four on their back feet. Males and females look very similar, but males have a concave plastron, the underside of their shell, and females have a flat plastron.
LIFESTYLE AND REPRODUCTION
Box turtles are diurnal and forage for food mostly during the day, especially after rains. They will usually stay in the same area as long as they have access to all the resources they need. During the winter months, they hibernate under dead leaves, logs, or other debris. While they are small, they have a long lifespan, an average of 50 years, with a large portion of the population exceeding 100.
Reproduction for box turtles can occur any time between late spring to early fall. Typically, females excavate their nests in summer, often on stormy evenings, and lay three to eight eggs. Digging out a shallow nest can take them two to six hours. There is no pair bonding, so males depart after mating. The nest is concealed with leaves and other debris. The female can have one to five clutches of eggs a year. The eggs incubate for 50 to 70 days and once hatched are on their own.
Box turtles are mainly found around the United States but can also be found in Ontario, Canada, and in parts of Mexico like Yucatan, Veracruz, and Tamaulipas.
They can live in different kinds of habitats, such as field forest edges, marshy meadows, palmetto thickets, shrubby grasslands, broadleaf forests, and other types of vegetation.
As omnivores, box turtles eat a variety of food items. They feed heavily on vegetation like plant stems, leaves, mushrooms, flowers, and fruits. However, they also frequently eat slugs, snails, and earthworms.