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Box turtles in Florida

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pair of box turtle

Florida is home to many species of box turtles and they can be found throughout the state. These animals are unique among turtles in that they are able to close their shells completely and this helps protect them from predators. Box turtles thrive in both terrestrial and wetland habitats, making Florida the perfect spot for them to live. 

box turtles in Florida

Habitat

Box turtles have made Florida their home since they have peculiar and particular needs that are met by the climate of the state. The warm, humid environment helps them keep active throughout most of the year and grants them access to an abundance of food sources. Box turtles inhabit many different kinds of areas in Florida such as swamps and wet prairies, but their favourite place is the Flatwoods, typically composed of lowland pine trees with dense understory vegetation.

In these areas, box turtles can find plenty of prey for food and a variety of substrates for nesting and burrowing. Overall, Florida provides favourable conditions for box turtles to survive, thus allowing them to thrive in this habitat.

Diet

The dietary needs of box turtles in Florida 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 Florida 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. 

baby box turtle

Colour

Florida’s box turtles display a variety of colours. Interestingly enough, these colours differ in some areas to ensure box turtles can survive. In north Florida, for example, box turtles have bright yellow stripes on their carapace surrounded by a dark brown background with dark spots.

The plastron is hued in wedges of yellow and black. In Central and South Florida, however, the same species may have more green-brownish shells with orange blotches and light yellow borders. On the plastron, there may be some large symmetrical splotches that do not join on the centre line. 

Size, Lifespan and Weight 

Box turtles in Florida 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. 

box turtles image

Predators

Box turtles in Florida 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.

Reproduction

Box turtles 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.

References:

2020 Year of the Turtle – box turtles | Panhandle Outdoors (ufl.edu)

Florida box turtle – Wikipedia

Florida Box Turtle | Imagine Our Florida, Inc

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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