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Eastern Box Turtle

Overview

The box turtle (Terrapene carolina) gets its name from its centrally hinged plastron (lower shell), which enables both front and rear portions of the plastron to be drawn up tightly against the carapace (upper shell). This "boxes in" the turtle for protection.

The greatest threat to Ohio's box turtles is the thoughtless driver who makes no attempt to avoid running over them as they lumber across the highway.

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Description

The high-domed carapace of the box turtle may carry a wide variety of markings. Usually it is dark brown or black, accented with some combination of yellow streaks or blotches. Males usually have red eyes and a longer tail than females.

Reproduction

The reproductive biology of turtles is fascinating. With the exception of softshell turtles, the sex of all species of Ohio turtles is dependent on the temperature at which the eggs develop. In the wild, warmer eggs at the top of a nest may all hatch out as females, while cooler eggs at the bottom hatch out as males.

For the Eastern box turtle, incubation of the 3-8 eggs usually lasts 3 months, but varies depending on soil temperature and moisture.

Habitat & Behavior

Found in woodlands throughout Ohio, the box turtle is our most terrestrial turtle. During the heat of summer, this extremely gentle animal spends the day hidden beneath rotting logs. decaying leaves, and other plant debris, venturing out only during early morning or evening. A sudden shower after a dry spell usually will bring out box turtles in large numbers.