Quiet old timers of the backyard forest, the eastern box turtles need our help to safely cross roads as they return annually to nesting sites.
Adult length is between 4 and 8 1/2". High-domed, keeled shell may be yellow, orange, olive, black or brown and may have a pattern. Plastron may be tan, dark brown, yellow, orange or olive and may have blotches of color. It is hinged and as long as the carapace, allowing a tight fit when the animal retracts. Males have red eyes, female eyes are yellow-brown. They have short, webless fingers; a small, well developed brain and well developed senses of hearing and smell. They are able to distinguish among colors.
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Box turtles may be small, but they will eat just about anything they can catch and fit in their mouth, including berries, flowers, insects, roots, eggs, and amphibians.
They have terrestrial habits generally but also spend time each day soaking in mud or water. In hot, dry weather they burrow under a log or in rotting vegetation. Rain brings them out in large numbers. They are slow moving but avid diggers, changing burrows frequently during the summer. Normally, the male ranges about 330' from the nest and the female 370'. They hibernate in 15" to 18" deep holes. They swallow their food whole and need to swallow small stones to help with digestion. In captivity older males dominate younger males and all females.
They nest in May or June, laying elliptical, thin shelled eggs in a 3-4" deep flask shaped cavity. A female can retain sperm for a number of years, thus producing fertile eggs years after mating. Newborns are the size of a 50 cent piece. They feed off the yolk attached to their navel, and grow 1/2 to 3/4" a year for the first 4 years.