Science in the Parks: Eastern Box Turtle

07 Jul

eastern box turtleThe Eastern Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina, is the only terrestrial turtle in Western Mass, and it isn’t found in the Berkshires anymore, you have to go up towards the Amherst area to find these beauties. Eastern Box turtles live near water but do not live in water nor can they swim. If they fall in the water they will float until they reach the shore. They are called box turtles because they can shut their bodies up in their shells like a box  when threatened. These turtles can do this because their shell is hinged in the front and back. Note that snapping turtles cannot do this so for protection, they hiss and snap.

box turtle bellyThe top of a turtle’s shell is called a carapace. The Eastern Box Turtle’s carapace is dome shaped and brown to black with yellow markings. The bottom shell, called the plastron, is flat in females and concave in males.

These turtles can be found in forests, woods or meadows as long as their is some type of moisture. Nesting takes place in the summer only after the turtle has reached maturity (7 to 10 years) laying three to eight eggs every other year or two. The nest is made in the sand.

Box Turtles are omnivorous, this means they eat plants, especially berries and small animals and invertebrates like snails and slugs. They have been known to eat carrion (dead animals).

Eastern Box Turtles hibernate on land during the winter, making a small depression in the ground under dead leaves or inside old stumps or fallen logs.

The Eastern Box turtle is considered a species of “Special Concern” in Massachusetts because its populations are in danger because of pesticide use, people taking them out of the wild for pets (which is against the law) and because they are slow moving and tend to be hit by cars.

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Posted by on July 7, 2013 in Berkshire BioBlitz, insects, Science, Uncategorized


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