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Box Turtles in Tennessee

box turtle in open

Box Turtles are a species of turtles that have been commonly spotted in Tennessee. They have a unique type of shell pattern and colour with yellow stripes and orange hues that really catch the eye. Box Turtles are specially adapted to live in a variety of environments, making them stylishly suited for Tennessee’s diverse landscape. In this article, we will discuss all the interesting facts about Box Turtles in Tennessee.

box turtles in tennessee

Box Turtles in Tennessee Is the Official State Reptile of Tennessee

Tennessee is a haven for box turtles, with this species being one of the state’s official symbols. Because of their unique appearance and delightful personalities, box turtles have captivated residents across the state for generations. In addition to its designation as a state symbol, Tennessee also provides protection from hunting and collecting wild specimens of this turtle by regulating its sales in pet stores and other establishments. Although taking them from the wild is prohibited, many people enjoy observing these charismatic reptiles in their natural habitats throughout natural areas in the state.


Box turtles can be found living in almost any type of habitat, ranging from meadows and fields to forests and prairies, they prefer to live in deciduous forests with dense undergrowth and plenty of leaf litter to provide them with food and shelter. In Tennessee specifically, box turtles have been known to thrive in the region’s temperate forest habitats with their wide variety of plant and animal life. 

box turtles in open


Box Turtle’s life cycles can vary depending on living conditions and care but usually range from 40-120 years. While some may live even longer, not many have been recorded due to their shy lifestyle and frequent burrowing tendencies. 


On average though, box turtles in Tennessee can weigh as much as 33 grams when fully grown, with males typically being larger and heavier than females. While some box turtles may be notably heavier than the average, this is unusual and can often be an indication of an unhealthy turtle or a sign that they are not getting enough nutrition in their diet. Also, hatchlings typically emerge with a weight between 4-6 grams; which is a full 27-29 grams less than their adult counterparts.


While they eat a variety of things including insects, slugs, and fruit, they also consume plants like grasses, weeds, clover, and wildflowers. In addition to these tasty treats from nature, box turtles in Tennessee can also supplement their diet with store-bought organic foods. While this may sound strange for turtles to be eating something from the grocery store, it actually provides them with valuable nutrients that help ensure their continued health. 


The average size of a box turtle in Tennessee is between four and six inches, depending on its age. As they reach adulthood, some can grow up to 8 or 9 inches in length.

small box turtles


Eastern box turtles are bright shades of yellow, orange and red along their carapace (top shell), while more mature specimens might have ornately hued markings ranging from deep chocolate tones to flecks of grey-green or white. Their underbelly, or plastron, usually comes in patterns such as spotting or streaks across a vivid field of cream or tan. 


Box turtles are one of the most beloved creatures in Tennessee, but they must contend with many threats to their survival. In addition to habitat loss and pollution, box turtles face predation from larger animals, particularly raccoons and skunks. In fact, research indicates that up to 90% of young box turtles fall prey to predators within the first year of hatching. Even mature adults will be targeted by carnivorous mammals such as foxes or coyotes if a food source is scarce.

Is owning a box turtle illegal in Tennessee?

Yes, box turtles are illegal to own in the state and it’s important to do your research before considering getting a pet turtle. It certainly can be confusing to understand all of the rules and regulations regarding the ownership of box turtles in Tennessee.  This is because wildlife officials have determined that it’s best for these species of turtle not to be kept in captivity, and they recognize that taking them from the wild can disrupt their ecological niches. 

box turtle young

What do you do if you find a box turtle in your yard?

If you find a box turtle in your yard, it’s important to remember that you should do nothing. Box turtles are generally harmless and have likely been contentedly exploring their environment for quite some time. It’s always best to leave them be as they can make their way back home on their own terms. If you’re worried that the turtle has taken up residence in your yard, ensure that it has an ample amount of food and places to hide for protection from predators. 



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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