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Scientific name Terrapene carolina carolina

Class Reptilia, Order Testudines, Family Emydidae

Photo taken 19 March 2013 at the Pennsylvania State University

Distribution & Habitat

Eastern box turtle range pictured in orange, courtesy of Davidson College (other colors represent other subspecies of T. carolina)


The Eastern box turtle subspecies has populations across the Mid-Atlantic US. The broader species T. carolina is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, but is not listed by the PA Fish & Boat Commission or by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. According to the IUCN, the Eastern box turtle is widespread and common, but suffering overall decline. Observed population densities range between two and 24 individuals per hectare of suitable habitat. The species if vulnerable to a variety of conservation threats, including habitat destruction and fragmentation, road mortality, and direct removal for use as pets.

Eastern box turtles can thrive in a wide range of habitats, but prefer moist forested areas with high underbrush density and easy access to water. Although mostly terrestrial, Eastern box turtles spend some time in shallow waters on edges of ponds and streams or in puddles. Box turtle home ranges are typically less than 200 meters in diameter.

Reproduction & Life History

The Eastern box turtle is a long-lived species, with well-documented cases of individuals reaching 40 or 50 years of age. Average lifespans are around 30 years. Female reach sexual maturity between 7 and 10 years of age. Once sexually mature, a female will mate in the spring and lay a 3 to 6 egg clutch in a shallow nest. Females do not stay to guard eggs. Eggs that are not found by predators will hatch in the late summer or early fall. Hatchlings and young box turtles are typically secretive and difficult to observe.

Diet

Eastern box turtles are omnivorous and opportunistic feeders. Young individuals are primarily carnivorous and become increasingly herbivorous with age. Box turtles commonly feed on insects, fruits, mushrooms, and carrion.

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