Eastern Box Turtle
(Terrapene carolina carolina)
Reptiles Alive Name: “R2D2”
Hissstory: We received R2D2 after she was hit by a car. We were able to save her life and heal most of her wounds. Her lower jaw, however, was so badly damaged that she can now eat only soft food – so she became non-releasable and was added to our education collection.
RA Diet: All of R2’s food comes finely chopped or blended. She gets a mixture of pureed: berries, melons, worms, slugs, and special zoo turtle food that is soaked in water until it is soft and mushy for her.
Natural Diet: Wild box turtles will eat just about anything! Fruit, berries, slugs, snails,insects, worms, mushrooms, baby mice, and carrion are all part of a box turtle’s diet.
Range: Eastern Box turtles range in the eastern United States from New York south to Florida and west into Texas. Eastern box turtles are native to the DC metro area.
Habitat: Box turtles may be found in forests, moist meadows, and suburban parks and yards.
Size: Box turtles grow 6-8 inches long. Females tend to grow larger than males.
Lifespan: Box turtles can live over 50 years – the record is 138 years!
Reproduction: Females nest May through July, laying 3-8 eggs. Female box turtles can store sperm for several years. Hatchlings may winter in the nest then emerge in the spring.
Conservation: Box turtles are protected in most states and should not be collected as pets from the wild. Due to their slow rate of reproduction, when adult box turtles are removed from the wild either by collection for the pet trade or death by automobiles, the entire local population of turtles can be threatened.
It is also important not to relocate box turtles. They have a small home range or territory where they spend their life. Turtles relocated by well-meaning but uninformed people have difficulty finding food, water, and shelter. The survival rate for relocated box turtles is very low.
If you see a box turtle, the best thing for you to do is just leave turtles alone.
Cool Fact: The reason box turtles are called “box” turtles is because they have a unique ability to close their bottom shell up to their top shell – they close up like a box! Most turtles can tuck their heads and limbs inside their shell, but most cannot fully close up like box turtles can. So remember, they are not boxing turtles (they don’t punch and kick!), they are called box turtles.
“The educator was terrific! Her facts were just right for our 6-7 year olds – they LOVED her. Thanks again, it was wonderful!” – Alison Pion, Mom, Washington, D.C.