Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Eastern Box Turtle

Terrapene carolina carolina

The Eastern box turtle is found in woodlands, pastures, and marshy meadows near ponds and streams in the eastern United States. They are called box turtles because they have a unique hinged lower shell that they can close like a box to protect them from predators.

Range & Habitat

      In the Wild:  Open woodlands, pastures and marshy meadows near ponds and streams in the eastern U.S. along the East Coast from southern Maine to Florida and west to Michigan, Illinois, eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

      Exhibit Location: Zoo to You Collection

Conservation Status: Near Threatened

This species is becoming threatened due to collection for the pet trade, habitat destruction and fragmentation, and pollution.


In the Wild:  snails, insects, berries, fungi, slugs, worms, roots, flowers, fish, frogs, salamanders, snakes, birds, eggs, carrion

 At the Zoo:  insects, worms, fruit, salad greens

Life Span

In the Wild: 40-50 years; In Human Care: more than 100 years (record is 138 years).

Fun Facts about the Eastern Box Turtle

      There are 6 subspecies of box turtles (4 in the United States, 2 in Mexico).

      When frightened, box turtles retract their head, tail and limbs into their shell and clamp it shut, then wait until the perceived threat is gone.  Very few species can prey effectively on adults due to this defensive technique.

      Box turtles can be dangerous to eat.  At times they eat poisonous mushrooms and the toxins may linger in their flesh.

  • Box turtle shells have great regenerative powers and can grow back when damaged


      Friends of the National Zoo, Reptiles & amphibians: eastern box turtle. Retrieved from Smithsonian National Zoological Park Web site:


      Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife, The Eastern Box Turle.



Updated June 13, 2023
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