Warren County Species Spotlight: Common Box Turtle


WARREN COUNTY PARKS, OHIO -- The Common Box Turtle isn't as common today as it once was. This species is terrestrial. Habitat loss and fragmentation have resulted in it being considered a species of concern in Ohio. Many have been killed by vehicles while crossing roadways. Decades ago I might see two dozen of these turtles in a single day. Now I'm lucky if I see one every year or two.

There probably isn’t a creature in our woods that is gentler or more docile than the Box Turtle. It moves very slowly in search of a meal that may include snails, worms, mushrooms, berries, fruit, or even wildflowers. Although it is approximately the size of a grapefruit when full-grown, it may be hard to spot due to the dappled yellow-orange markings on its dark carapace (upper shell). 

Box turtles are reptiles exhibiting scales and claws. Amphibians such as frogs and salamanders have smooth, moist skin and do not have scales or claws. Box turtles have a hinged plastron (lower shell) that allows them to seal their head, tail, and legs securely in a “box” out of reach of any predator that may have evil intentions.

Box Turtles may live 50 to 100 years in the wild. Males have distinctive red eyes whereas the eyes of females tend to be amber. The males also have a concave plastron. Females have a flat plastron. Female Box Turtles dig nests in the ground where they lay up to nine eggs that hatch in about two months.

Due to the decline in the Box Turtle population, it is best to not move one from where you find it except perhaps just a few feet to get it out of a roadway to avoid being run over by a vehicle. They do not adjust to being “transplanted” to a different locale and should not be kept as pets.

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