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Box turtles in Missouri

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box turtle in wild

Missouri is home to a diverse landscape of plants and animals, including the fascinating box turtle. This species, also known as the Terrapene Carolina, is native to Missouri and is best recognized by its ornate carapace that can be some combination of hues such as yellow, brown, red and black. The distinguishing feature of this turtle is that it carries its home right on its back with a shield-like shell. 

As omnivorous creatures, box turtles in Missouri forage for mushrooms, snails and insects to form a balanced diet. Due to their smaller size—they range from seven inches to nine inches in length—they aren’t ideal pets as they might not survive long if exposed to mild changes in temperature or humidity levels. 

box turtles in missouri

Habitat

These turtles are commonly seen in a variety of habitats and prefer moist or semi-moist areas such as shallow ephemeral ponds, wetlands, woodland streams, swamps and marshes. As these turtle species don’t migrate long distances like other reptiles, they rely on their environment to provide the essentials they need to survive. Box turtles also rely on areas of decomposing vegetation for food sources and use certain plants for cover from predators. 

Diet

The dietary needs of box turtles in Missouri can vary greatly depending on their location and individual species. Generally, box turtles in Missouri 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 Missouri 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 turtles in open

Colour

The colour of Missouri box turtles can vary immensely from grey, black and brown to yellow, orange and even red. Aesthetically pleasing and easily recognizable due to the striking striping pattern on their broad, domed shell which helps reduce sun exposure in Missouri’s diverse climates. 

Size, Lifespan and Weight 

Box turtles in Missouri 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 properly. 

Predators

Box turtles in Missouri 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.

box turtle

Reproduction

Box turtles in Missouri 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:

Ornate Box Turtle | Missouri Department of Conservation (mo.gov)

https://sites.wustl.edu/monh/turtles-of-missouri/ – Turtles of Missouri

Author Profile

A motivated philosophy graduate and student of wildlife conservation with a deep interest in human-wildlife relationships, including wildlife communication, environmental education, and conservation anthropology. Offers strong interpersonal, research, writing, and creativity skills.

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A motivated philosophy graduate and student of wildlife conservation with a deep interest in human-wildlife relationships, including wildlife communication, environmental education, and conservation anthropology. Offers strong interpersonal, research, writing, and creativity skills.

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