General Information

11 species/subspecies of box turtle exist ranging from the mid-west to the east coast of North America and south into parts of Mexico and Central America. In the pet trade the most common box turtles are: Three-toed Box Turtle (Terrapene Carolina triunguis), Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata ornate), Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene Carolina Carolina), Florida Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina bauri) and the Golf Coast Box Turtle (Terrapene Carolina major).

Box turtles are very popular because of the variety of individual colors, small size (one to two pounds) and resilience in captive situations. Box Turtles are as comfortable in water as they are on land – hence the SUV of turtles! Additionally, they have the ability to bend and turn their heads making them appear more expressive. Box turtles are very visually orientated and make excellent hunters. Northwest Tortoise focuses on the Eastern Box Turtle.

The Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina)

Eastern box turtles (EBTs) are native to the eastern United States from Maine to the deep south. They are characterized by high-domed carapaces (shells), and various coloration patterns including: yellow or orange streaks or blotches on their carapace and/or limbs on a brown background, and a rigid formation in the vertebral (backbone) area.  Box turtles in general are so named because of the hinge located on the plastron (bottom) that allows the turtle to withdraw its head and legs completely into the shell, thus acting as a drawbridge. The hinge is so strong predators can rarely force it open, nor can humans without a crow bar!

Examples of Eastern Box turtles