Connection to the Mississippi River Watershed

These turtles are found within the Mississippi River Watershed. These animals are common pets and serve as a reminder of the importance of responsible pet ownership.

Fast Facts

  • Also known as: common box turtle, box turtle
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Life Span: 25-30 years in the wild; up to 100_ years in captivity
  • Size: 5-6 inches
  • Weight: 1-2 lbs
  • Group Name: bale, nest, turn, or dole
  • Conservation Status: Vulnerable (IUCN, 2013)


  • Small to medium-sized turtles with a domed shell  
  • The eastern box turtle subspecies has a brown shell (carapace) with variable orange or yellow markings
  • The bottom shell (plastron) – which can be yellow, brown, black, or a combination thereof – has a distinct hinge that allows the turtle to “box” itself in for protection against predators.  This subspecies has four toes on its hind feet


  • Insects
  • Worms
  • Salamanders
  • Eggs
  • Roots
  • Snails
  • Berries
  • Flowers
  • Carrion
  • Predators:
  • Hawks and owls
  • Fox
  • Raccoons
  • Snakes
  • Skunks


  • Mating season for Eastern Box Turtles begins in spring and continues throughout the summer and into October
  • Females use their hind legs to excavate nests in loamy or sandy soil.  Box turtle eggs are elliptical in shape, roughly 3 cm long by 2 cm wide, and protected by thin, white, flexible shells
  • Clutch size ranges from 3 to 8, with 4-5 being the most typical   
  • Incubation normally lasts three months, though the exact duration varies depending on soil temperature and moisture.  The temperature of the nest determines the sex of the offspring; males develop under cooler conditions (<82°F) than females (>82°F)
  • Young box turtles grow quickly (studies suggest a rate of 1.5 cm per year for the first five years). After that, growth slows down but will continue for at least 20 years. Females reach sexual maturity at the age of 7 – 10 years


  • Diurnal, though their activity levels may drop significantly during the hottest parts of the day 
  • Stays cool during the summer by hiding under decaying logs and leaves, crawling into mammal burrows, and taking refuge in mud, shady pools, and puddles
  • Winters in a state of dormancy.  Hibernation takes place up to two feet below ground in loose earth, mud, stream bottoms, old stump holes, and mammal burrows
  • Home ranges often overlap, and it is not uncommon to find these turtles gathered in groups


  • Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and listed on Appendix II of CITES 
  • Species of special concern in several states, including Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire and Ohio
  • A wide variety of population datasets indicate a widespread, persistent, and ongoing gradual decline of box turtle populations that likely exceeds 30% over three generations. Causes of population declines include habitat destruction, pollution and pesticide effects, vehicle strikes, and collection for the pet trade

Did you know?

  • Male box turtles typically have red eyes, whereas females have yellowish-brown eyes
  • Males are slightly larger than females, on average, and distinguished by a concave plastron and thicker and longer tails
  • Young box turtles are primarily carnivorous and become more herbivorous as they age
  • Most box turtles spend their entire lives within 250 yards of the nests where they were born
  • Box turtles are named for their ability to retract their heads, tails, and limbs inside their shells and clamp them shut