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Box turtles in Colorado

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colorado box turtle

Colorado is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including many fascinating species like the box turtle. Box turtles inhabit a range of habitats across the state, from lower alpine meadows to pine forests and grassy, shrubby areas. These interesting creatures have been adopted by many locals as unofficial mascots, living wild in Colorado neighbourhoods and cities

Although their name might suggest otherwise, these are actually land-dwelling turtles that make their homes in damp areas along stream banks or small ponds. Most box turtles migrate between two places, typically staying within two to three kilometres of each other. Interestingly enough, they even return back to the exact same location year after year! 

box turtles in colorado

Habitat

Box turtles have adapted to Colorado’s climate in a unique way, as they can be found inhabiting numerous biomes around the state. Even though they prefer moist habitats such as wet meadows, shallow woods, and marshes, they are also able to withstand periods of drought by burying themselves in the ground until more humid conditions return. As omnivores, box turtles eat a wide variety of plants and insects, but their primary sources of food come from hilly regions with lots of vegetation. 

Diet

The dietary needs of box turtles in Colorado can vary greatly depending on their location and individual species. Generally, box turtles are omnivores that enjoy a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, dead insects, and earthworms. In the wild, most box turtle diet consists of leafy green plants like clover, and dandelion greens and other wild vegetation such as mushrooms.

Wild box turtles in Colorado may also eat caterpillars and butterflies as well as fish and frogs found in shallow ponds or streams. Captive box turtles living in areas with warmer climates will gain additional nourishment from a varied diet consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, small pieces of cooked meat, and boiled eggs as well as commercial turtle diets. 

box turtle

Colour

In most parts of the Centennial State, the common box turtles in Colorado have a high-domed shell that usually ranges in colour from olive to bright yellow with dark brown or black patterns pointing toward the centre of their scutes. On the turtle’s plastron or bottom part of its shell, one will usually find brightly coloured hues of oranges and reds abstractly scattered throughout its scutes.

Although they come in a variety of colours and are quite vibrant when they are young, as box turtles age their carapaces become more muted due to adding calcium over the years. 

Size, Lifespan and Weight 

Box turtles in Colorado are relatively small reptiles, with a lifespan of around 50 years. The daily size and weight vary between species of box turtles, as they can range from 4” to 8” in length and 2-6 pounds in weight. The larger species require more space and bigger enclosures that mimic their natural environment and allow them to grow correctly. 

Predators

Box turtles in Colorado can live in many habitats, so they have quite a few predators prowling the areas nearby looking for them. These include raccoons, skunks, foxes, snakes and hawks. Though box turtles are able to defend themselves by retreating into their shells, it is ultimately no match for any of these animals that are intent on making a meal from this small delicacy. It is up to us humans to safeguard box turtles from becoming prey and take care when interacting with them and their habitats.

2 box turtles

Reproduction

Box turtles in Colorado are fascinating creatures and their reproductive cycle is particularly interesting. Females will often lay several clutches of eggs per season, laying as many as six to eight eggs in each clutch. For terrestrial species, the embryos undergo dormant periods during the winter months in colder climates, allowing them adequate time to fertilize and develop. Females will often breed every two or three years, but certain conditions such as adverse weather can stop reproduction for a season or longer.

Costs associated with reproduction are fairly minimal since males do not actively participate in incubation or rearing, though they will provide paternal protection when nearby. The eggs can take anywhere from two to eighteen months to hatch and the mother will usually stay close by until they have all hatched; once the baby turtles emerge they are on their own immediately and must fend for themselves in the wild.

Author Profile
Jeevan Kodiyan
Zoologist | Wildlife Conservation at Animals Research

An animal enthusiast with an interest in zoology, studying the behavior and activities of animals in the wild habitat. I work on research projects related to species conservation and endangered species protection. I also leverage zoology to become an educator, educating others about the importance of protecting our natural environment and the beauty of animals in their natural habitats.

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