Eastern Box Turtle – 7/19/10

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 7/19/10

Observation Time: 7:30 a.m.

Observation Location: undisclosed location in Sharon (to protect the turtle)

Common Name: Eastern Box Turtle

Scientific Name: Terrapene carolina

Comments: I spotted this rare male box turtle (Terrapene carolina) in Sharon (exact location undisclosed to protect the turtle) at 7:30 on Monday, July 19, 2010. Although it appeared at first to want to cross the busy road, it eventually turned around and trundled off away from the road, perhaps deterred by the 6″ granite curb.

Box turtles live within a very small territory (about 200 yards in any direction). They become familiar with where to find food and shelter within that area as the seasons change. It is not a good idea to move a box turtle to a new area because it won’t know where to find food, and it may try to find its way back to its home territory, crossing roads and taking the risk of getting run over in the process.

Box turtles are extremely long-lived (up to 100 years or more), slow to mature, and have relatively few offspring per year. These characteristics, along with a propensity to get hit by cars, make the box turtle a species particularly susceptible to human-induced problems. It is listed by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) as a Species of Special Concern (SC).

Excerpt from NHESP web site:

“Most turtles require multiple types of habitats to fulfill all of their survival needs. For example, the Blanding’s Turtle overwinter in permanent wetlands, often move to vernal pools to feed, nest in open gravelly upland areas, and move among marshes, shrub swamps and other wetland types throughout the summer. In order to access all of these resources in one season, they will often have to cross roads. Roads are one of the most prominent threats to turtles. The number one threat is habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation due to residential and commercial development. Other threats include collection as pets (both commercial and incidental), disease, increased levels of predation in urban and suburban areas, and succession of nesting and other open habitats.”

For tips on what to do if you encounter a box turtle, and how to report sightings of rare species, see the NHESP website.

More Information: Massachusetts Turtle Atlas

Eastern Box Turtle