Eastern Box Turtle Overview


Eastern box turtle in mud

Eastern box turtle in the mud
Photo credit: Ken Thomas


Terrapene carolina carolina is the Eastern box turtle, sometimes also just called the common box turtle. It is a medium-sized turtle that lives along the East Coast and into the Midwestern states.

It is also the official state reptile of North Carolina, which is where the species and subspecies name comes from. Tennessee has also named the Eastern box turtle its state reptile. What a popular animal!

What the Eastern Box Turtle Looks Like

This turtle is usually about 6 – 7 inches long. It has a dark brown carapace patterned with various splotches ranging in color from yellow to red. The keel is obvious. The plastron is tan to black, usually a solid color, although there can be lighter and darker areas.

Males are usually brighter-colored than the females. The head and neck has yellow to red markings, and the front legs also have brightly colored scales.

Males have red eyes and females brown.

Where the Eastern Box Turtle Lives

This turtle has one of the biggest ranges of all the box turtles. You can find them down the east coast from Main to Georgia and as far west as Michigan and Illinois.

It prefers wooded areas with plenty of moisture and leaf litter to hide in. This is also a good place to find lots of tasty insects.

How the Eastern Box Turtle Lives

Box turtles are usually awake during the day and sleep at night. When the weather is not suitable for them, they will enter states of lowered metabolism that helps them survive. During dry, hot weather they estivate and during cold weather they brumate.

These states are similar to hibernation.

Diet for the Eastern Box Turtle

Like most box turtles, Eastern box turtles will east almost anything they can find in their homes. This is called opportunistic feeding. They’ll devour whatever seasonal goodies are available, like fungi, berries and seeds. They’re also fond of snails, mealworms and grubs.

Box turtle eating strawberry

In captivity, you can feed most species of American box turtle similar diets. As long as it’s a varied diet, it should be fine. If you notice that your turtle has a preferred food, it’s ok to give a little extra of that, but don’t let him con you into limiting his diet to only his favorites.

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