Saturday, May 12, 2012

Baby Box Turtle

I’m a big fan of turtles and was happy to find a young Eastern Box Turtle near my fence row clearing site.  Box Turtle eggs typically hatch from late August through mid October, so this guy has only had a few months of active life.  Despite his youth, he’s grown enough to replace the rounded features of a hatchling with those of a wizened old turtle.

The youngster was aware of my presence and froze in place as I approached.  The baby seems in perfect health with bright eyes, good color and signs of growth.  The plates covering the shell, called scutes, are constantly replaced by the formation of new scutes from beneath.  As the new, larger scutes form, the space between the old scutes expands.  Eventually, the old scute is shed and the new one becomes visible.

It’ll be a while before the shell gets large enough to allow the turtle to completely withdraw inside.  It may be several years before the turtle reaches a size that reduces its vulnerability to predation.

Chances are that this baby will not make it to the end of summer, but at least it’s got a good start.  Most eggs are lost to predators before they hatch and the hatchlings are on the menu for all sorts of animals.  Since I found one baby, that means the nest was probably untouched and there should be another four or five siblings that made their ways into the world.  I hope at least one is lucky enough to reach adulthood.

Even though he’s grown a bit since hatching, the turtle is still a tiny thing.  That’s my thumb beside the baby. 

Here’s the location of the find.  I guess I’m lucky that the search image of a turtle shape was firmly planted in my mind at an early age.  I stopped walking the instant I caught sight of the turtle, but it took a second for my conscious mind to realize what I was seeing.  The baby is in the center foreground of this shot.  You can see that with everything there was to look at, the turtle could easily have been overlooked.

I couldn’t determine the cause of this irregularity in the shell.  It looks like a surface deformity that will be shed with the scutes.  It will certainly be a way of identifying this individual should we meet again any time soon.

My traditional turtle mug shot will not help in future identification.  The pattern will go through several changes before developing its more enduring adult form.  Finding this baby makes me hopeful that the Blue Jay Barrens Box Turtle population is healthy and stable.

A Camera Critters submission.


  1. What a spectacular post! I'm so glad you spotted this turtle so it didn't get stepped on (and so you could photograph it for this post). So awesome.

  2. What a sweet little turtle. I love turtles, too. I have a large stone one next to our fireplace and people have a habit of giving me turtle related gifts. Love your post.

  3. Hi Steve...I am so glad you decided to continue your posts even if you do have a snake now and then ; }
    I like turtles ,but that depends on there size and where they are !!
    Example ...the time the HUGE SNAPPER when under my small bass boat ....he was half the size of the boat !!!! no lie!!
    Love your cute little fella ..interesting info!!

  4. ah, another turtle lover. I have a red eared slider (who is entering his 28th year)
    these little ones have a rough ride. I hope he makes it through the summer and learns some good street cred, so to speak.

  5. What wonderful photos and I've learned several things that I didn't know -- I need to share this with my daughter who loves turtles. We saved one off the highway earlier today -- it was *this close* to getting smushed -- sigh. My daughter gave it quite a talking to about that :-)

    Visiting via Camera Critters

  6. ...I really enjoyed this post! I love turtles too. I've only seen a baby boxer this small once.

  7. Thanks Misty.

    Hi Lois. Fortunately there are many people with excellent crafting skills who continue to make new and unique turtle art.

    Hi Grace. A huge swimming Snapper is an impressive sight. My baby Snapper has outgrown the house and will be moved outside this summer. He begs for food whenever he sees me and is able to bite the top edge of his tank and pull his body out of the water using only his neck muscles. I make sure I keep my fingers well back when I feed him.

    Hi VioletSky. I have five Red-Eared Sliders that I adopted when their owners were ready to pass them along. They may not know many wild skills, but they're experts at begging for turtle pellets.

    Hi Marie. It's a fortunate turtle that gets a helping hand across the road.

  8. Hi Kelly. I don't see them very often, but I like to imagine them crawling about everywhere.

  9. Those are awesome shots! You don't realize how tiny it is until it's next to your hand.

  10. What a wonderful find! I've never had the luck of seeing a baby box turtle - I can't get over how small they are. (Thanks for the very helpful scale model!)

  11. Hi Gabrielle. It's really hard to imagine how tiny these babies are without some reference of comparison.

  12. what a pretty turtle :-) love cute too :-) Dropping by from Camera Critters