Woodland Box Turtle
Terrapene carolina carolina

Common Name:

Woodland Box Turtle

Scientific Name:

Terrapene carolina carolina



Terrapene is derived from Native Americans (Algonquin) which means "turtle".


carolina is derived the Carolinas, were the species was first described.


carolina is derived the Carolinas, were the species was first described.

Average Length:

4.5 - 6 in. (11.5 - 15.2 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

6.1 in. (15.6 cm)>

Record length:

7.8 in. (19.8 cm)

Virginia Wildlife Action Plan Rating Tier III - High Conservation Need - Extinction or extirpation is possible. Populations of these species are in decline or have declined to low levels or are in a restricted range. Management action is needed to stabilize or increase populations.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: A medium sized turtle with a highly domed carapace with a maximum length of 198 mm (7.8 inches). In Virginia, 156 mmm is the longest known carapace length. Plastron is 86-103% of the CL with a maximum known PL of 147mm. Carapace is brown to black with varying pattern of yellow markings. It has a single middorsal keel. Scute formula is 12/12 marginals, 4/4 pleurals, and 5 vertebrals. Plastron is also black to brown with possible yellow markings. It is hinged and can be closed against the carapace enclosing the body in the shell. Skin is darkly colored with yellow to orange markings black to brown with or without an irregular pattern of cream to yellow; skin of head, neck, and legs brownish to nearly black with orange to yellow spots, streaks, or blotches. The upper jaw has a distinct beak, especially in older adults. The plastral hinges enable the turtle to completely enclose itself in the shell *10760*. Box turtles show very little sexual size dimorphism. Adult males are 112.7-155.9 mm carapace length (avg. = 132.4+/-11.2, n=41), 106.6-142.6 mm plastron length (avg. = 126.8+/-8.9, n=44), and weigh 250-603 grams (avg. = 383.4.+/-80.5, n=41). Adult females are 110.4-151.5 mm carapace length (avg. = 130.1+/-10.2, n=59), and weigh 258-621 grams (avg. = 421.5+/-89.3, n=53). The claws of the hind feet differ with males having short, robust, and curved; they are long, slender, and straight in females *10760*. Precloacal distance in males is 4-13 mm (avg. = 8.9+/-3.7, n=7) and in females is 0-11 mm (avg. = 4.3+/-2.6, n=29). Eye color is sometimes indicative but is is not always reliable. In 169 females from Prince William County, 80% had brown eyes, 10% red-brown, 7% red, and 3% golden, whereas in 86 males, 90% had red eyes, 5% brown and 5% red-brown.*10760* Hatchlings have a prominent yellow keel on a brown carapace. Plastron is light colored with a brown blotch in the center *10760*.

REPRODUCTION: In Virginia, box turtles usually have one clutch of 2-7 eggs per year In the wild, mating has been observed in April-October, while nesting usually occurs May through July. Some delayed fertilization has been noted. Smallest male and female at maturity was 110 mm CL. They take about 10-20 years to mature. Nests are excavated with hind limbs and can be in any soil type. Nest is usually 6-8 cm deep. Eggs approximately averaged 35.4 x 21.3 mm and weighed 7.8-13.0 grams. Incubation in lab was 56-75 days. Reports from the wild are 69-136 days. Overwintering in the nest may occur *10760,11624*.

BEHAVIOR: Quite secretive, this species is diurnal, but active in late spring, early summer *2988*. They become very active and easily captured after summer rainstorms *9988*. They are omnivores and have been known to be a good source of seed dispersal. They will eat earthworms, mushrooms, berries, insects, amphibians and carrion. The young are primarily carnivorous. They are active about early May to October but they may be active earlier and later. They overwinter buried in leaves and soil. They seek damp mud or pools when temperatures get too high. They are found in most open forested habitats with lots of cover *10760,11284*.

ORIGIN: This species is native *2988*.

POPULATION PARAMETERS: In many populations the leading cause of death is related to humans; many turtles are killed by cars, mechanized farm and construction equipment, as well as lawn mowers. Many authors report large numbers of winter kills and/or predation during hibernation. In addition, roads and other farms of development increasingly fragment box turtle habitats, isolating populations and impeding gene flow *9989,9990*. They are long lived with some specimans reaching over 100 years old. Densities in TN were 7-9 turtle per acre. They have high site fidelity and don't disperse widely. A study in Prince William county found a male to female ratio of 2:1 and 24 of the recaptures were within 250 m of original capture site. Other studies have found a male to female ratio of 1.2:1, with 4.4 turtles per acre and home ranges from 1.2-4.7 hectares 9994,10760,11284*.


References for Life History

  • 2988 - Ernst, C.H., R.W. Barbour, 1972, Turtles of the United States, 347 pgs., Univ. Press of Kentucky, Lexington
  • 9988 - Klemens, M.W., 1985, Survivors in Megalopolis:Reptiles of the urban northeast, Discovery, Vol. 18, Num. 1, 21-25 pgs.
  • 9989 - Klemens, M. W., 1989, The methodology of conservation, in Swingland, the conservation biology of tortoises, IUCN/SSc, Vol. 5, pg. 1-4
  • 9990 - Klemens, M. W, 1990, The herpetofauna of southwesters New England. Ph.D. Diss., University of Kent at Canterbury, Kent, England
  • 9994 - Warwick, C., 1986, The rise and fall of North American box turtles-unpub.report, People's trust for Endangered Species, 10 pgs., Surrey, England
  • 10760 - Mitchell, J. C., 1994, The Reptiles of Virginia, 352 pgs., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC
  • 11284 - Wilson, L.A., 1995, Land manager's guide to the amphibians and reptiles of the South, 360 pp. pgs., The Nature Conservancy, Southeastern Region, Chapel Hill, NC
  • 11624 - Mitchell, J. C., 2001, Personal Communication, Expert review for GAP Analysis Project, Mitchell Ecological Research LLC


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Virginia is home to 28 species of frogs and toads.


We have a large diversity of salamanders consisting of 56 different species and subspecies.


Virginia is home to 9 native lizard species and two introduced species, the Mediterranean Gecko and the Italian Wall Lizard.


The Commonwealth is home to 34 species and subspecies of snake. Only 3 species are venomous.


Virginia has 25 species and subspecies of turtle. Five of these species are sea turtle.