|Help Me! I Found A
How many of you kept a box turtle as a pet? How many of
you have let your children keep a box turtle as a pet?
For a reptile, box turtles have a very low 'yuck' index.
Most people are charmed by their simple beauty, their
quiet ways, and their neat trick of being able to
completely pull their heads and legs into their shells.
Unfortunately, this appreciation is taking its
toll on the Eastern Box Turtle. Not only is it ILLEGAL to take
a turtle out of the wild to keep as a pet, we are literally
loving them into extinction.
Experts agree that box turtles are in slow, but steady
decline. Humans, of course, play a large role in this decline:
destruction of habitat by development, roads dividing up
habitat, death by construction machinery and motor vehicles,
and pet collection all play a huge part in the deaths of
thousands of box turtles each year. Until 1994, tens of
thousands of box turtles were collected and shipped to Europe
for sale in pet shops.
Another contribution to the decline of the box turtle is its
own biology. A female does not begin laying eggs until she is
about 10 years old. She will lay 2-10 eggs a year, many of
which will be eaten by predators. The hatchlings that do make
it out of the egg are vulnerable to predators until they are
about 3-4 years old and their shells are hard enough to
Box Turtle Care
Once the turtles reach this age they stand a good chance of
living for 25-100 years IF- and it's a big IF- they can live
out their life in an undisturbed habitat. But we've already
seen that the chances of that happening are pretty slim. Of
the several hundred eggs a female box turtle will produce in
her lifetime, only 2-3 hatchlings will survive to continue the
species. Disturbing statistics, indeed.
Another factor which makes it difficult for box turtles to
propagate is their habit of being 'homebodies'. Box turtles
tend to live out their lives within a few acres of where they
This may seem like a positive thing, but when box turtles get
displaced from their birth habitat they spend the rest of
their lives looking for it instead of looking for a mate. They
will neglect to eat and even hibernate in their quest to
return home. Studies have shown that displaced box turtles
will not resettle in a new location. No matter how many times
they are recovered, the turtles continue to wander away
looking for home.
So, how can we help?
- First and foremost, LEAVE THEM ALONE! Do
not remove a box turtle from the wild unless it is sick or
- If you rescue a sick or injured turtle,
write down the EXACT location where it was found so it can
be returned there when it has recovered
- When you stop to help a turtle cross the
road safely, make sure you move it in the same direction it
- If a box turtle lays its eggs on your
property protect the nest and hatchlings from predators
- Support local and national legislation
which protects habitat