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Facts About Eastern Box Turtles (17 Fun Facts With Pictures)

Eastern box turtles are one of the most common reptiles in the United States. These tiny turtles usually weigh in at just under a pound and around 4.5 to 6 inches long. Like all box turtles, they have the ability to completely withdraw into their shell and close it when threatened. They may be a common sight, but that doesn’t make them boring. In this article we’re going to look at some more interesting facts about Eastern Box Turtles.

17 Cool Facts About Eastern Box Turtles

image: Pixabay.com
  • Shell length: 6.5-8″
  • Shell width: 4.5-6″
  • Weight: 1-2 lbs

Depending on the area you live in, you may frequently encounter turtles. Most of us have stopped to help a turtle cross the road at some point, or watched them slowly rise from the bottom of a duck pond. They are such a regular sight, it’s easy to take them for granted, but there are hundreds of turtle species, each with a unique set of behaviors and quirks.

Keep reading for more interesting facts about Eastern Box Turtles.

1. Eastern box turtles live at least 40 years

Due to their slow metabolisms, they reach maturity at around 4 years old. They do not reach their full size until they are around 20. In the wild, these turtles can live from 40 to 50 years, there have even been some reports of eastern box Turtles living to be around 100 years old.

2. Eastern box turtles rarely fight and often share territories

Eastern box turtles can be found with 3 or 4 individual turtles sharing the same range and living peacefully. The occasional spat between males usually only consists of bites on each other’s shells, which causes very little damage.

3. The eastern box turtle is one of 6 subspecies of common box turtles

Other sub-species are Gulf-coast Box turtles, Yucatan Box-turtle, Florida box-turtle, Mexican box-turtle, and the three-toed box turtle. There are 4 other distinct species of box turtles.

4. Female eastern box turtles can produce fertilized eggs for several years after mating

This is definitely one of the wildest facts about eastern box turtles. Female turtles usually lay 2-8 eggs once a year. They can store sperm in their oviducts and produce fertilized eggs for around 4 years after mating.

5. Eastern box turtles have an excellent “homing instinct”

They travel an average of 55 yards a day, and can easily find their way home from a strange area, provided they aren’t too far from home. Long-term studies have shown individual turtles in the same home range up to 50 years later.

6. Young male eastern box turtles travel one way

These young travelers have no established territory and spend their days roaming. This may have to do with their homing instinct. If you move a turtle you see crossing the road, be sure to place it facing the way it was headed, or due to its homing instinct, he’ll find himself in danger again.

7. Male eastern box-turtles have red eyes

As is common in wild animals, male box turtles are usually more brightly colored than females. This includes their eyes, males usually have red eyes, while females have brownish eyes. This fact about eastern box turtles might help you identify if a turtle is a male or female if you see one while on a nature walk.

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8. These little guys will eat almost anything

Eastern box turtles are opportunistic omnivores, which means they will eat anything that is available to them. This includes fungi, insects, slugs, berries, and grasses. They have also been known to scavenge and will eat live birds.

9. They are not graceful swimmers

Eastern box turtles are terrestrial, which means they live on land. Although they enjoy shallow puddles and moist areas, especially on a very hot day, they do not manage well if submerged. They are clumsy swimmers and may even drown if the water is too deep.

10. They are early risers

Eastern box turtles are diurnal, which means they are active during the day. In the heat of summer, they get an early start so they can spend the hottest part of the day relaxing in the mud.

11. They are listed as vulnerable in many areas

Some upsetting facts about eastern box turtles are that in many areas they are listed as vulnerable, and the state of Maine officially lists them as endangered. This is due to habitat loss, illegal removal from the wild for sale as pets, and being hit by cars.

12. In most states, it is illegal to sell eastern box turtles as pets

Since they are recognized as threatened, most states have made it illegal to remove adult eastern box turtles, hatchlings, or eggs from the wild. They have very specialized needs which means they do not thrive in captivity. Like their cousins, the red-eared slider, it is illegal to remove them from the wild in states like Tennessee.

13. Eastern box turtles have hinged shells

This is a standard part of the anatomy of all box turtles. They have a “hinge” located on the bottom of their shell. This is what allows them to tightly close their shells in self-defense.

14. Their shells can regenerate

Many species turtles shed pieces of their shells like other reptile shed their skin. The shells of eastern box turtles will continue to grow throughout their lives, and if damaged will slowly regenerate the damaged portions. This means box turtles have growth rings!

15. They have more toes in front than in back

Eastern box turtles have interesting feet, sporting 5 toes in the front, and 4 in the back. Some unusual individuals may only have 3 toes in the back.

16. They are the official turtle of two different states

Eastern box turtles are the state reptile of both Tennessee and North Carolina. There were even votes to make them the state reptile of both Pennsylvania and Virginia. Not too shabby for a little turtle who weighs less than 1 pound.

17. Box turtles live in a small area

Most eastern box turtles live their entire lives in an area of land only about a square mile or so in size. Box turtles have been known to live over 100 years, so it’s important never to displace one. Some say if a box turtle is displaced that it will spend the rest of its days looking for that home territory.