Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Eastern Box Turtles at The Shack

Eastern Box turtles are exclusive to North America.  Having grown up in the Midwest, coming across a box turtle in the fields was not uncommon. But I never, in a million years, expected to come across a box turtle at my property in West Virginia. Not only have I come across one, two box turtles have crossed my path in less than two months.  I decided I should educate myself about Eastern Box turtles. 

Eastern Box Turtles in West Virginia

In early May, I came across a box turtle that was crossing the road. I was surprised to find that turtle as I had believed turtles remained closer to water or wetlands.  The timing of that sighting seemed like a message to me. A well-timed message to be okay with slowing down.  I was moved to write about that turtle

This is the turtle in the road

This past weekend, I was driving onto my lot and spotted a turtle in my "yard". Of course, it was very near the area where I drive and was very glad to have spotted it. There is a good chance I would have driven over it otherwise. I got out and snapped a few photos and just watched it for a bit.

This is the turtle in the yard.

These turtles spiked my interest in learning more about them. I wanted to know what they were doing so high up and far from water. There is a creek near my place. But it is in the valley at the bottom of the ridge.  It seems far too far for turtles to stray.

This is what I've learned so far:

  • Eastern Box turtles are thought to be declining in numbers. Due to loss of habitat, being struck by automobiles, and from being taken out of their habitat as pets.
  • Eastern Box turtles have red eyes if they are male and darker brownish eyes if they are female. I can verify that the difference is easy to note - as the first turtle I saw had red eyes and the second turtle had brownish/golden eyes.
  • They hibernate (in the ground) in the winter months
  • The females lay their eggs in small holes they dig (I will watch the dogs closely so that they don't dig up anything other than rodent holes!)

What to do if you find an Eastern Box Turtle

  • Look and DO NOT Touch
  • DO touch if you find it crossing the roadway. If you can safely stop and move it to the side of the road (in the direction it was traveling) please do so
  • Do not encourage the taking of wild turtles as pets 
  • And as always, watch what your dogs are playing with when they are outdoors.  Not only are some things dangerous for your dogs... your dogs could be dangerous for some things

Rather than continue regurgitating the random bits of information I have learned I will share a link of a very helpful video about Eastern Box Turtles.  I hope that my next turtle update from The Shack will be photos of healthy and happy baby turtles safely crossing my path. 


  1. Oh Dawn Rae, I love that you so take care of the nature around you. Love turtles! When I was a child in Brazil I had two, mom and dad. Learned about their shells and how to tell if they were male or female from that. Good to know about the eyes on this species....

  2. Interesting reading and watching the video about box turtles. We have turtles here in western Arkansas that I've always assumed are box turtles. When we first moved here, our city dog (Golden Retriever) became a box turtle hunter. She just had a knack for finding them in the surrounding woods and enjoyed carrying them home. We would always rescue the turtles and put them back so she wouldn't injure them, and I don't think she ever did actually injure one, but she certainly had fun finding them and carrying them home to show us. I hope you do find baby turtles sometime in the near future at the shack. Can't wait to see pictures!

  3. So many beautiful and unique animals are becoming endangered or threatened. After listening to the video, I realized just how blessed you were to actually see 2 different box turtles. It really would be cool if you get to see the babies too! I hope we all get to enjoy seeing those photos. Their shells really are gorgeous. I love just studying the designs on their shells.

  4. I've always loved turtles of all kinds. When I was young we had a desert tortoise show up in our yard. We found out it loved to eat grapes, and I loved watching it do that. I hope you will find some baby turtles at the right time.