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Box Turtle Information

Last Updated: 6/19/16

Subspecies and Descriptions
Box Turtle Books
Box Turtle Photos
Box Turtle Links


Box turtles are primarily terrestrial. One female laid eggs near my pond in the mulch and came back a few times to dig around. She did get into the pond but it is not that common for box turtles to go swimming.

Box turtles get their name because they can close all of their appendages and head into their shell. Wild box turtles should not be kept confined in captivity. In most areas, it is illegal to remove a box turtle from the wild without permission. Some states allow you to possess one of them (one too many). If you find one, leave it alone, unless it is in immediate danger from cars, predators, bulldozers, lawn mowers, etc. They stay within a few acres for their entire lives so if you see one on your property (assuming you have land), you should see it again if it survives. If a box turtle is relocated, it will do what it can to return to its home.

The instructions for aquatic turtle care on my main turtle page do not all hold for box turtles. For example, box turtles do not eat in the water and prefer terrestrial prey to aquatic prey. They love earthworms, beetle larvae, and other bugs, especially when young. As adults, they eat more vegetation, especially loving most fruits and leafy plants. They also hibernate among leaves and loose dirt and not underwater.

Subspecies and Descriptions

The Eastern box turtle is Terrapene carolina, and the Western box turtle is Terrapene ornata. The Eastern box turtle can live to more than 120 years old! Easterns grow 4 to 8.5 inches long while Westerns grow 4 to 6 inches long and have a more ornate shell.

The ornate box turtle, Terrapene ornata ornata is a popular pet. The other North American native turtles are sold less often as pets but unfortunately, many are still stolen from the wild.

The box turtles now sold for pets are usually Asian species such as the Malayan box turtle (Cuora amboinensis) which is the most aquatic box turtle. It almost acts aquatic.

Box Turtle Books

Book Information Link to Purchase
Turtles and Tortoises by R. D. and Patricia B. Bartlett, Barron's, 1996. This book has a ton of information and nice color photos.
The Box Turtle Manual by Philippe de Vosjoli and Roger Klingenberg, D.V.M., Advanced Vivarium Systems, Inc., 1995. If you have box turtles, you will want this book! [Note my book has a different cover than the one at right, perhaps another edition?]

Box Turtle Photos

Photos are listed from newest to oldest.

Lacey in Maryland sent these photos of a turtle that she found on 5/19/09. She put the turtle in an aquatic setup, and it seemed to do well. The baby seems to be an Eastern box turtle.
Baby box turtle - top view in water
Baby box turtle - side view out of water

Glen sent these darling photos of hatchling box turtles on 8/28/07 that he found near the border of Louisiana and Mississippi. He asked me to identify them. The internet says the three-toad box turtle and Gulf Coast box turtle are native there but he does not think it is either of those. Do you know?
Baby box turtle - top view
Baby box turtle - front view
Baby box turtle - bottom view which shows the yolk
Baby box turtle - right side view; this gives an excellent view of the "egg tooth" which is a little hard protrusion on the front of the baby's top beak that helped him break the egg; the "tooth" falls off soon after hatching.
Baby box turtle - hatching
Baby box turtle - hatching; "Peekaboo, I see you!"

On 5/17/07 and 5/18/07, Nina sent these photos of a turtle for identification. The turtle seems to be a box turtle but not like ones that I have seen. Could it be an ornate box turtle? It does not look like the photos I have seen but I know there is a lot of variability. She lives in Texas. If you know what species this turtle is, please contact me, and I will also let her know.
Update 6/19/16: Someone asked about these photos. Looking at them today, with more experience, this turtle looks to be aquatic to me. I see no sign of a hinge, and the features look more like a slider. The photos are not the best quality. I still do not know what species this turtle is so, if you know, let me know! So, while it says "box turtle" below, I do not think that is the case.
Box turtle - front view
Box turtle - plastron (top) view
Box turtle - back end of the plastron
Box turtle - carapace (bottom) view
Box turtle - top view
Box turtle - front view

Alva sent these five photos of a hatchling box turtle on 10/30/06 for identification.
Baby box turtle - front top view
Baby box turtle - plastron
Baby box turtle - carapace
Baby box turtle - top view
Baby box turtle - head and front feet

Jane sent me these photos of a hatchling box turtle on 11/16/05 in Maryland.
Baby box turtle - carapace
Baby box turtle - front view
Baby box turtle - plastron

Steve sent this photo of a male Eastern box turtle at the Tanglewood Preserve on 10/14/05:
Male box turtle

Debra sent me these photos of a baby box turtle (I think) on 9/30/05 (the first two) and 10/7/05 (the other three):
Left side
Right side
Left side

Jeff sent these three photos of a hatchling Eastern box turtle from Virginia on 10/8/04. The baby was found and soon released back into the wild. He said on 10/10/04, "I am going to release him today while the weather is still nice and warm. I'm sure he will be able to find a good spot and settle in for hibernation. I have hydrated him like you said to do without giving him a swimming lesson and have tried to feed him but he doesn't show much interest at this time. He can't be very long out of the egg so I think he is still getting nourishment from the yolk. Please feel free to use the pictures on your box turtle site. I'm glad I could contribute that much to you after all of the information you have provided me." Here are the photos of the cutey:
Front view with ruler and quarter
Top view with ruler and quarter

On 2/2/05, Samantha sent these photos of her three-toad box turtle which I finally linked into my site on 2/28/07 (when I tell people I am behind, I mean it!).
Three-toad box turtle- top/side view
Three-toad box turtle- bottom view (the photo is kind of dark)
Three-toad box turtle- bottom view

To see a lot of photos of the wild box turtles we have, go to my main box turtle page where I have those photos.

Box Turtle Links

I need some more links! Let me know if you find one. Thanks.

These links were last verified on 1/17/06. For links that no longer work today, I found the archived versions (from archive.org).

Box Turtle Care and Conservation Web Page - great site!

Box Turtle Care A to Z

Box Turtle List - a Yahoo group all on box turtles!

Health Care for Box Turtles

The Box Turtle Coalition of the Northeast - this site/group no longer exists so this is an archived link to the former site.

Box Turtles at the McKeever Center

Wild Box Turtle Conservation - a site on how to make your property box turtle friendly!

Inexpensive Indoor Box Turtle Habitats - this is an archived version of the site

Bill's Box Turtles

Hatchling Haven - a site about raising hatchling tortoises but some of it can be used for box turtle hatchlings.

Box Turtles of North America

See my turtle links page for more turtle links and turtle organizations to consult!

Return to Robyn's Main Box Turtle Page.

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