Critter Corner - Box Turtle

<--- Ornate Box Turtle
         
(Terrapene ornate)

 

 

 

Three Toed Box Turtle
(Terrapene carolina triunguis)    -->

 

DID YOU KNOW:

Turtles represent the oldest living group of reptiles on earth.  Fossils dating from the time of the dinosaurs look very similar to the turtles living now.  Two kinds of box turtles are found in our area --- the ornate box turtle and the three-toed box turtle.  The ornate is brown with yellow lines radiating from the center scute (the large scale on the upper shell) and the three-toed is olive-brown with faint yellowish lines radiating from the center of each scute on the upper shell.

EATING HABITS:

The box turtle dines primarily on grasshoppers, beetles and caterpillars, but mulberries, wild strawberries and other plant materials are an occasional treat.  Wilma, the resident box turtle at Lakeside Nature Center, is fond of strawberries and kiwi fruit.

 

THE YOUNG:

The female turtle finds an exposed area with loose soil or sand and digs a shallow hole for her two to eight eggs.  She covers the eggs with dirt and lets them incubate on their own.  The eggs hatch in two to three months.  When the young are born, they already know what to eat and how to care for themselves.

HABITAT (HOME):

While Three-toed box turtles prefer oak-hickory forests and areas along brushy fields, the ornate box turtles prefer grasslands, native prairies and glades.  Though turtles are slow-moving, their home range may be  5 acres!  They hibernate over winter, sometimes in large groups, in burrows nearly two feet deep.

 

DEFENSIVE HABITS:

When a box turtle is startled or threatened, it will make a hissing sound, pull in its head and feet, and tightly close its shell until it feels safe.  Box turtles are well-adapted for their dry-land life.

UNUSUAL FACTS:

  • The male ornate box turtle has red eyes and the female has yellowish brown eyes.

  • Box turtles have a hinge in the underside of their shell.

  • Box turtles may live 30 years or more, and some other turtle species may lie to be eighty.  The box turtle living at Lakeside Nature Center is nearly seventy years old.

  • The ornate box turtle was designated the official state reptile of Kansas by the state legislature in 1986.

 To learn more about box turtles

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(Photo credits: Portrait of ornate box turtle, Missouri Department of Conservation; Portrait of three-toed box turtle, Missouri Department of Conservation; Ornate box turtle on ground, EPA; Underside of box turtle, Michigan Department of Natural Resources)