Florida Box Turtle Overview


Florida Box Turtle

Florida Box Turtle
Modified version of photo by Jonathan Zander


The Florida box turtle is a small animal with a small native range. Like many other box turtles, it’s protected in its home state, and it’s illegal to capture wild ones. So before getting one, make sure you know the law and follow it.

And make sure you set up a home with plenty of humidity, fresh water and material to burrow into.

What the Florida Box Turtle Looks Like

Terrapene carolina bauri, the Florida box turtle, is a small turtle. It’s usually only about 5 to 5.5 inches long.

It has a dorsal keel and a yellow starburst pattern on its dark (brown or black) carapace, similar to the ornate box turtle. But its carapace is narrower than the ornate’s, and it often flares at the back. Also, the yellow lines are usually thinner than those on an ornate.

Its plastron is tan and may have darker brown lines on it.

It has brown skin with yellow lines on either side of the head, starting at about the corners of the eyes. The lines aren’t necessarily solid.

Its eyes are brown (both males and females).

The rear legs have either three or four toes, although four is more common. This turtle is also a good climber.

Where the Florida Box Turtle Lives

The Florida box turtle lives—where else—in Florida. You can also find it in the Keys and sometimes even southern Georgia.

It prefers damp woods, swamps and marshes, similar to the Gulf Coast box turtle.

How the Florida Box Turtle Lives

These turtles love to spend time in the water, but that doesn’t mean they like to swim. They can swim, but they prefer sitting in shallow water over swimming.

Because Florida stays warm year-round, the Florida box turtle stays active year-round and rarely hibernates. It does slow down when the temperatures drop, but things rarely get cold enough that it has to hibernate.

Diet for the Florida Box Turtle

Like its other box turtle relatives, the Florida box turtle is an omnivore that eats whatever it can find. It’ll catch live prey, like crickets, flies, earthworms and other creepy crawlies.

It’ll also eat any available plants and their fruits, berries or leaves, along with moss and mushrooms.

If you have one as a pet (be careful, it’s illegal in many areas to take one from the wild, and Florida law limits you to two without a permit—it’s best to buy captive bred turtles), you can feed it similar items.

Box turtle eating strawberry

Consider things like squash, various lettuces and mushrooms for plant foods. Plus various worms, beetles and (if they don’t bother you) frozen pinky mice for protein.

For more information on feeding box turtles, take a look at What Box Turtles Eat.

One thought on “Florida Box Turtle Overview

  1. boxturtleworld Post author

    A long, detailed comment from Brent got erased when I had to reinstall the site from an older backup 🙁 … Luckily I have a copy of that comment, so I’m pasting it here. I want to do this because he is so clearly fascinated with box turtles and was willing to go out of his way to help one. Yay, Brent! 🙂

    So here it is:

    Happened to spot one of these Florida Box Turtles this afternoon while driving. After executing an immediate U-turn, I pulled off the roadway and got out for a closer look. I did not know exactly what type of turtle it was, but it did not matter…my immediate concern was to prevent it from being flattened by an unobservant motorist. After taking a few pictures with/on my phone, I placed this turtle into the heavier vegetation facing away from the pavement just beyond the mowed portion of the ditch. This was essentially a 180degree turn from where it was headed toward the road and, I assume, most certainly, toward it’s death.
    It is only after doing an online search that I was able to positively identify the turtle I saw today, and I would like to say that it was an encounter that will not be forgotten as the Florida Box Turtle is a very attractive and interestingly patterned species that I would like to see more of. That said, I hope others will agree with me on that point and I also hope they have enough respect for the wildlife they encounter to allow them safe passage regardless of what variety they may be.
    Anyway, I wanted to contribute my sighting report to/for you to use as you see fit.
    As to details of importance, I offer the following:
    *Time of encounter – between 15:00 and 15:30 EST
    *Weather conditions – approx. 82F, wind was 15-20mph gusting to 30 from the S SW, humidity near 85%, hazy sunshine
    *Location – East side of Vanderbilt Beach Road just north of the intersection with Woods Edge Road, south of Bonita Springs, FL and north of Naples, FL
    *Size and visual observations of specimen – unofficially(didn’t think of measurement at the time), I’d say it was at least 5″ to 6″ in shell length with a height of 4″ to 4.5″, no visible damage or scarring anywhere, eyes bright and clear, very alert and aware as it closed up as I moved towards it and only opened enough to get a look at me as I had it sitting in my opened hand for pictures…poked it’s head out slightly when I placed it into the scrub vegetation facing away from the road. As I returned from my errands, I returned along the same route to see if it had attempted a road crossing after I interrupted it about 2.5hrs earlier…if it did, it managed to make it across without being hit by a vehicle because there were no turtle remains anywhere on the roadway. Of course, there may have been another person that cared enough to intervene and save it from being road kill…I hope I am not the only one willing to do so!


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