Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday: Eastern Box Turtle

Welcome to the first installment of Wildlife Wednesday! Learning about wildlife is our favorite part of our adventures and it seems only appropriate to devote one day a week to what we've learned.

So for this first installment, meet the Eastern Box Turtle.

We met this fellow in the Scales and Tails Aviary at Soldier's Delight.  The ranger told us it was a male box turtle and explained she knew this by his coloring and shape of his shell.  I'd never seen one this orange before.

Eastern Box Turtles can grow as big as 8 inches.  They get their name from their unique ability to completely close their shells.  The box turtle has a hinged "plastron" or bottom shell.  It's a sort of door he can close behind his head, legs and tail.  Other turtles have the hinge, but most can't close completely.

The box turtle can be found in a variety of habitats and he'll eat just about anything, but moist forrests are his favorite abode.

The average lifespan of an Eastern Box Turtle is 25-30 years, but some have lived 40-50 years.  There are less credible reports of turtles living as long as 100 years!

Another thing we learned about Eastern Box Turtles is that it's not wise to take them from the wild.  The creatures are easily stressed and require more care than most people realize. Also, the females lay hundreds of eggs over a lifetime, but only 2-3 survive.  As with most things in nature, the less they're interfered with the better.

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Sources and Further Reading:

Box Turtles, Encyclopedia of Life

Eastern Box Turtle, Fairfax County Public Schools

The Eastern Box Turtle, Davidson College

Field Guide to Maryland's Turtles

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