Home Animals Box turtles in New Mexico

Box turtles in New Mexico

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Box turtles in New Mexico are a popular sight, easily spotted waddling around gardens and woodlands. These small reptiles are considered to be symbols of New Mexico’s culture and beauty, so they have been protected since their listing on the state’s endangered species list in 1967. 

There are two types of box turtles in New Mexico—

  • Spotted and 
  • Ornate

and both thrive in habitats that provide plenty of places for them to hide from predators. They feed on a variety of plants, fungi, insects, and even carrion, and they spend most of their life burrowed underground or under shrubs. 

box turtles in new mexico

Habitat

They inhabit many diverse environments and can be discovered living along the Rio Grande river, in grasslands, in woodlands, or in thick scrub areas. As their name suggests, they use their hard shell as a form of protection. With no significant threats to their population, you may find yourself lucky enough to spot these remarkable creatures basking in the sun during their active summer months.

Diet

The dietary needs of box turtles in New Mexico 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 New Mexico 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 box turtles in New Mexico takes on a variety of colours, ranging from shades of orange and red to warm browns and greens. Some have patterns of yellow or white colouring all over their shells, giving them an even more stunning, distinct look.

Size, Lifespan and Weight 

Box turtles 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 New Mexico 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 turtles eating

Reproduction

Box turtles in New Mexico 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:

http://www.nmherpsociety.org/reptiles/turtles/index.html

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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