The Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) is native to Eastern United States and can be found in the Hudson Valley.
They can be identified by their high curved brown shell, with a covering of yellow or orange designs. Individual shell patterns are unique, like a fingerprint, and can help you distinguish the same turtle from year to year.
Their bodies are very close to their shells; they are fused to the vertebrae. Box turtles can completely hide inside as protection from predators. The size of their shell can range from 4.5 to 6 inches long. Sometimes females have brown eyes while males have red eyes, although this is not always the case!
The Eastern Box Turtle is not a tortoise, but it spends much if its time on land. Their diet consists of fruits, mushrooms, grasses, worms, slugs, snails and other various animals and plants. Only during hot or dry days will they cool off in wetlands and shallow pools.
Eastern Box Turtles stay close to where they are born, only venturing out about 250 yards but have been documented traveling in a mile radius. They cannot survive in unfamiliar environments, making it vitally important for them to be left alone when you find them, and not moved to a new location.
Eastern Box Turtle in Gardiner, NY.
THE TURTLE WHO CROSSES THE ROAD:
If you find a turtle of any kind crossing the road, help it across if you feel safe to do so in the direction the turtle is heading. Make sure you wash your hands and do not pick up any animal unless you feel safe to do so. This is especially important with Snapping Turtles which can turn their heads and bite. A large stick can help motivate a turtle, and your personal safety is the most important.
In addition to natural threats such as predators, the Eastern Box Turtle is also susceptible to human caused hazards such as habitat fragmentation, vehicles, agricultural machines like mowers, and habitat loss.
Currently in New York State, there is special concern for the Eastern Box Turtle. The Wallkill Valley Land Trust has a conservation easement specifically for the protection of important box turtle habitat in Gardiner NY where over 106 individual box turtles have been documented since 2006.
For over a decade, the landowners have generously opened their property once a year for our very popular Turtle Day. Attendees have assisted in finding, documenting and learning about box turtles. This year, due to the safety concerns of COVID-19 this event will be “virtual” with a series of informative posts and videos in May!