Backyardsafari's Blog

Environmental Inspiration in Your Own Backyard

Backyard Box Turtles May 30, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — backyardsafari @ 2:16 pm
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I was visiting my parents today and look who stopped by the pond to say hello and take a quick dip in the water!

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This is an eastern box turtle. Growing up we were always finding these in our backyard or in the woods behind our house, and I’ve always enjoyed seeing their bright orange faces.

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Here is a close up of its shell. The top of a turtle shell is called a carapace (pronounced “care-a-pace”). Each individual “scale” on the shell is called  a “scute.” You are supposed to be able to estimate a hard-shell turtle’s age by counting the lines on the scutes, like you would count rings on a tree. It is not an exact science, and you are supposed to also weigh and measure the turtle as well to be more accurate. Box turtles mature slowly and live a long time, though, so I think it’s safe to say this turtle is probably older than 6 or 7. They can live to be about 40 years old! Pretty amazing.

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As far as I can tell this box turtle is a female. You can tell by looking at the bottom of the shell, called the “plastron.” If it is flat on the bottom, it is probably a female. The males’ shells, on the other hand, are curved underneath so the male can balance on the female’s shell better when mating.

Do you agree that this is a female?

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After a while, the box turtle moved from our yard into the pond that I have mentioned in previous posts. It was so fun to watch! I have rarely seen a box turtle like this, just bobbing along in the water.

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She blends in pretty well with the koi fish, don’t you think? Here is a picture of the turtle a little farther out. She just floated for a while, sometimes leaving her head under water for a long time.

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Here is a video of the turtle hanging out in the middle of the pond. When the sun moves over the water you can see her body hanging there more clearly. I apologize for the small size of the video!

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Eventually she swam over to the side and later crawled out and went on her way. You can watch here:

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After this I decided to just leave her alone. Because these turtles grow so slowly, it takes a long time for the young to grow old enough to reproduce themselves and replace their parents. For this reason I want to make sure this box turtle stays healthy! Of course I also hope that it keeps coming back to the pond, which it is more likely to do if it doesn’t have a stressful visit.

I should add that a lot of box turtles have run into trouble lately due to getting hit by lawn mowers as they pass through peoples’ backyards! We all need to make sure we keep our eyes open and look closely for the beautiful wildlife that is sharing our home with us.

What a nice Sunday treat! I haven’t seen a box turtle in a long time, and it was great to find one again. I hope it keeps coming back to the pond and we see it for many years to come.

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One Response to “Backyard Box Turtles”

  1. […] I am sure you will see plenty–squirrels and chipmunks fighting for access to bird feeders, a box turtle visiting a man-made pond that didn’t exist 3 years ago, some birds bathing in collected rainwater. See […]


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