Geographical Range Eastern and south-central United States; eastern and southern Mexico
Habitat Open woodlands, grasslands, marshy meadows, pastures, scrublands
Scientific Name Terrapene carolina
Conservation Status Near threatened

Technically, this animal should be called the box tortoise. The term “turtle” refers to animals that live primarily in the water, while “tortoises” live on land.

The box turtle has a high domed shell, patterned with orange or yellow markings on a dark background. It lives mostly in open woodlands and meadows -- usually near a source of water -- and rarely strays out of its small, five-acre home range.

Most box turtles live for several decades, and some have even been known to live up to 100 years! They eat a wide variety of plants and animals, including berries, insects, snails and slugs, and worms. Since they are ectotherms (what used to be called "cold-blooded"), they can’t produce their own internal heat. So after spending the warm months fattening up, the turtles brumate, rather than truly hibernate -- a way that reptiles cope with cold weather. Box turtles stay underground during the winter until the weather warms again in the spring.

Did You Know?

The box turtle gets its name from its ability to “box” itself inside its shell when threatened – one of the few turtles that can do this.