The three-toed box turtle, T.c. triunguis, is one of the smaller box turtles. It lives mostly in Southern states. It gets its name from a feature common to many animals of this subspecies—namely having only three toes on their hind legs.
What the Three-toed Box Turtle Looks Like
This turtle is relatively small, at about 4 to 6 inches long. It has the same highly domed carapace as most of the T. carolina animals. But it tends to be longer and narrower than the Eastern box turtle. It also has an obvious keel.
Its shell color ranges from olive or yellowish brown to brown. The scutes may be patterned with thin lines or spots. Its plastron is usually tan, sometimes with darker areas at the edges of the scutes. Unlike the Eastern box turtle, the males of this subspecies don’t usually have a concave plastron.
The three-toed box turtle has brown skin and orange or yellow scales. The hind feet often have three toes, but it’s not unusual to see three-toed box turtles with four toes on the hind legs.
Males have pink or red eyes while females’ are brown.
Where the Three-toed Box Turtle Lives
The three-toed box turtle has a fairly wide range. You can find it throughout much of the central and southern states from Arkansas to Kansas and western Georgia to northwest Texas. Within these states, it finds areas with good humidity, hiding places and food sources to live.
The size of its range depends on the amount of resources available. If food and water are easy to find, it may only need a few hundred square feet. If resources are scarce, it will need a larger home range.
How the Three-toed Box Turtle Lives
Like all box turtles, this one forages for food and explores during the day. At night, it finds a bush, fallen log or other safe place to hide and sleep.
Depending on the climate where it lives, the turtle may also estivate (during hot, dry weather) or brumate (during cold weather). These are similar to hibernation in that the animal burrows and lowers its metabolism in order to survive until the weather turns nicer again.
Diet for the Three-toed Box Turtle
The three-toed box turtle is an opportunistic feeder, just like any box turtle. It will eat both plant and animal matter that it can find.
In general, box turtles need about half animal and half plant matter in their diets. Younger box turtles are more carnivorous than fully adult turtles.