Testudines (turtles and tortoises)
Emydidae (box turtles)
HABITAT AND RANGE
The box turtle is a land species which inhabits open woodlands east of the Mississippi. They can also be found in wet meadows, pastures and floodplains. They can be found as far north as Maine and south to Florida all the way west to the Mississippi.
Box turtles are about 4-8.5 inches long (depending on sex and subspecies). Their carapace is variable in color and pattern but often is brown with either yellow or orange. The plastron is tan to dark brown, yellow, orange or olive and pattern less. Males can be distinguished from females by having a concave plastron (to mount females), bright red eyes and a slightly longer tail. The plastron is hinged in box turtles so that they can pull their entire bodies inside their shell.
Turtles are omnivores and feed on insects, worms, snails, flowers, fruits, berries and sometimes carrion.
REPRODUCTION AND LIFESPAN
They build their nests from May to July where the female will lay 3-8 elliptical eggs that are about 1.5” long. The nests are about 3-4 inches deep and dug by the female in soft dirt. The hatchlings emerge from August to September and may spend the winter in the nest. Females can store sperm and therefore can produce fertile eggs for several years after a single mating. Sexual maturity is reached by about 6 years of age and lifespan can reach 80 years but 25-30 is more typical in the wild.
Box turtles inhabit very small areas. If food and water remains abundant a box turtle may spend its entire life in an area no larger than a football field. Box turtles are now endangered because people catch them in their yards and keep them as pets. The animals are now in captivity and unable to breed, they cannot replace the population.