Sunday, May 15, 2011

Box Turtles

I’ve seen several Eastern Box Turtles so far this spring and they all seem to have recovered from their experience with the drought last summer and fall. The drought extended well past the beginning of turtle hibernation. The turtles went into winter with extremely low body weights and seemed almost as light as an empty shell. I was concerned that they wouldn’t have the energy reserves to survive until spring. I’ve seen this type of thing happen many times in the past. I worry each time it happens and each spring I’m relieved when the turtles appear alive and well.

This is my equivalent of the turtle mug shot. I take a top of shell shot of every turtle I encounter. One day I’ll gather all the shots together and see how many duplicates there are. Some turtles have distinctive scars or deformities that make them easy to identify. Most just have colorful patterns that are similar enough that I don’t recognize them as previously encountered individuals.

A healthy male has his eye on the female from the previous shot. When I came into view, he suddenly got shy and withdrew into his shell.

I didn’t wish to cause too much of a disturbance, so I quickly got his mug shot. After getting his photograph, I moved over to get shots of the female.

In the half minute it took me to photograph the female, the male moved forward and started to bury himself in the leaf litter. I don’t think this run and hide behavior is the best way to impress a lady.


  1. I'm doing the exact same with the box turtles here on our property. Last year I had a total of twelve different turtles, but came upon several of them again and again throughout the year.

    This year's count is 4 so far, haven't compared their photos with last years yet.

  2. I can't remember the last time I saw a Box Turtle in these parts.

    It would be great to see a series of your mug shots one day, and fun to compare the different carapace patterns.

  3. Excellent! I had a mug shot of a female a couple blogs ago. I've been spending quite some time in a marsh'ish area I found trying to identify a cornsalad species and the box turtles seem to be abundant!

  4. I remember finding plenty of turtles when we were kids. Where we are now we don't have any (that anyone has found), but who knows, the deer just started showing up on our property!

  5. Hi, Wanda. I haven't counted the total number that I have seen here. There are about half a dozen that I recognize and see often.

    Hi, Jain. I may post all of those mug shots one day after I've sorted through all of my pictures. I have thousands of photos saved that I will have to get organized. It'll probably be one of those post retirement projects.

    I saw your turtle mug shot, Michael. It's good to hear of places that still have a lot of turtles.

    Box Turtle numbers have fallen dramatically in the last 20 years, Lois. It's sad that they're not as common as they were when we were kids. That seems to be true of many things.

  6. Hi Steve We have a bird dog that is a terrible bird dog. He is a great box turtle dog. When my wife is running Sophi the dog may bring as many as 4 turtles and place them at her feet. We place them at different locations where the dog usually doesn't go. She has fetches many turtles so far this year. Have you ever seen a turtle dog? WAR

  7. I've known several dogs that were turtle addicts. I don't know why they have such a need to collect turtles. Maybe turtles remind the dogs of their favorite toy.