Box turtles are a beloved part of Georgia’s natural history. Long prized as both a pet and an indicator species that can tell us much about the health of our native ecosystems, Box Turtles have maintained a sheltered but determined presence in the Savannah River valley. Box turtles roam in fields and woodlands across this fertile countryside, ranging from the northwest corner of the Peach State to Echols County in southern Georgia. The Eastern Box turtle is grateful for such abundant habitats, as it seldom travels far beyond the spot where it hatched. In this article, you will learn more about box turtles in Georgia.
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In Georgia, these turtles can be found in many types of habitats, ranging from moist woodlands and swamps to dunes along coastlines. Box turtles are often seen basking in the sun during the day to help regulate their body temperature; at night they hide out among tree roots or logs until morning when they emerge again.
Their diet is also quite varied, consisting mainly of fruit and vegetables; however, they will also feed on snails, slugs, worms, insects and carrion when it’s available.
In Georgia, the eastern box turtle has a distinct shell, which can be highly variable in colouration and patterning. The most common colours are shades of black and yellow or brown with some orange or red streaks. However, there is significant variability among individual box turtles living in Georgia. For example, some may have predominantly black shells whereas others may appear to be all orange or red in colouration. All turtles in this species have distinctive hinged plastrons that give them the capability to completely enclose themselves within their shells for protection from predators.
Size, Lifespan and Weight
Box Turtles in Georgia are relatively small creatures, with a length of around 4-7 inches and a weight of between 6-18 ounces. These terrestrial turtles can live up to 50 years in the wild, taking advantage of the warm environment they inhabit.
Box turtle’s predators are raccoons, domestic cats and dogs, mink, coyotes and skunks. These animals all depend on the box turtles for nutrition, stalking them among foliage and under wood piles or other hiding places. Box turtles also battle for survival against numerous birds, including owls and hawks that snatch them from their shelters and feast on them.
Box turtles in Georgia reproduce by mating during the spring and summer months. They lay their eggs in a burrow or shallow hole, typically in protected nesting sites. Georgia’s box turtles can reproduce throughout their lifespan of 40-70 years! Their nests produce approximately 3-5 eggs that hatch after an incubation period between 70-100 days.
Interesting Fact: The sex of the offspring is determined not by genetics but by temperature – cooler temperatures during incubation lead to male hatchlings, while higher temperatures result in female progeny.
Is it illegal to keep a box turtle in Georgia?
Yes, it is illegal. Owning Box turtles in Georgia is a tricky business. While different types of turtles, such as the pond slider, are legal to own with permits in Georgia, it, unfortunately, is a different story for box turtles. Although there are certain exceptions for keeping box turtles as pets if they cannot survive in the wild or if they were acquired prior to them becoming illegal, the possession of box turtles requires permission from the Division of Natural Resources and Wildlife Resources of Georgia.
What do you do if you find a box turtle in your yard?
If you’re fortunate enough to find a box turtle in your yard in Georgia, it may be looking for a place to lay its eggs. It is important not to move the turtle from its current spot as it is likely there for a reason and was drawn to an area for egg laying or for food. However, if the spot appears to be dangerous, like near traffic or in the middle of a mowed lawn, you can gently help them relocate within your property.
Make sure that though it is being relocated, the new spot still has both good soil and some sort of cover or shade. If you happen across a box turtle while out walking, try to remember that releasing these turtles into areas where there may be other predators or diseases will only further affect their population and give them space so they can find safe places on their own.
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.