Eastern Box Turtle

Terrapene carolina

Distinguishing Characteristics

Photo: Trevor Persons

  • Medium-sized, carapace (upper part of shell) approximately 4 to 8 inches in length
  • High, dome-shaped carapace is dark brown or black, with yellow, orange, or olive markings
  • Limbs and head are dark gray with yellow or orange blotches
  • Males have red eyes
  • Double-hinged plastron (bottom part of shell) allows turtle to fully seal itself within its shell when threatened

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Status and Distribution in Maine

  • Rare; possibly no native populations; all records, including in southern region, may represent escaped or liberated pet turtles
  • Southern region only

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  • Terrestrial, prefers areas of sandy soils
  • Open woods, meadows, brushy fields, cleared powerline right-of-ways

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  • Omnivorous, eats invertebrates as well as vegetation, primarily fruit, fungi, and leaves and stems

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Seasonal Changes

  • Hibernates underground in burrows or beneath leaf litter

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Natural History Notes

  • In mating, male mounts the shell of the female and position his body to be nearly vertical on top of her—males have been known to fall backwards onto their shell and die that way, unable to right themselves
  • Mating occurs May through October, with egg laying in June and July. Females may store sperm for several years before laying fertilized eggs

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