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Box Turtles

A pair of wild Eastern box turtles on our land in mid-September 2003. The male is on the right and was killed just days later when a neighbor ran him over while the female, Freddie, is in hiding.

Last Updated: 5/27/19

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Box turtle specific information is now on the three pages below.

Box Turtle Information:

Box Turtle Care:

On This Page:

See my pond story page for a story about one of our wild box turtles in my pond.

For information on raising mealworms, see my page on mealworms.

See my main turtle page for more turtle stuff!

Our Wild Eastern Box Turtles

Freddie on 10/18/03.

We saw the same few Eastern box turtles from the late 70's until April of 2001, at least once a year. The resident male was killed via vehicular manslaughter on 10/5/99 by one of our neighbors. The resident young female died from a respiratory infection on 4/20/01 under the care of a person experienced with turtles (she was receiving Baytril injections for it). The resident old female (the mother) was found on 6/5/01 and said to be healthy. When I was maybe five years old, I named her Fred (I only realized she was a girl a few years ago). She has always been there as had the other two turtles that died. The last female may no longer have a male to breed with as development has destroyed 90% of the land around us cutting off any males further away.

During the worst drought around here in almost a century during 1999, I came across both girls (mother and daughter, about a day apart at different spots on our land) at the driest time, and they were in sorry shape. After a few hours in warm water up to their plastron, during which they drank literally non-stop and defecated and after half a dozen king mealworms each to eat, they were raring to go. I like to think that I saved their lives since there was no water or insects around anymore (my ponds have sharp drop-offs that they cannot use), and it was in the high 90's degrees F! I saw the daughter who was about half grown in early October 1999, crawling into the mulch I recently put around a tree. She was so cute! I have not seen her since. I think she may have been the turtle that died of the respiratory infection mentioned above in April of 2001.

In September of 2003, my mother came across our resident large female, Fred. She was not alone. A large male was on top of her! Great news! Well, not really. Two days later, a neighbor squashed him ensuring that box turtles are not common here. An expert said the mating was "practice" and so she was not "with turtle." A few weeks later, on 10/6/03, my mother came across the female again and put her inside so I could see her when I came home. Unfortunately, when I saw her, I knew right away that she was horribly sick. We renamed her Freddie. She got professional vet and turtle rehabilitator treatment for an upper respiratory infection, conjunctivitis, and some shell fungus. With daily Baytril shots, eye medication (see under conjunctivitis), and shell medication (1% silver sulfadiazine), she recovered and was released on 10/19/03. I put up five photos of her from the day before release.

On 10/18/03, when I launched this page on my web site, I was outside and heard a loud noise. One of our rare black phase gray squirrels was gnawing on something. It was a long-dead juvenile Eastern box turtle carapace. This was very sad but at least the shell served to help the squirrels get calcium and trim their teeth.

Freddie came back on 5/28/04 to dig a hole in the mulch by my pond, maybe to lay eggs. She had a pink mark on her lower back where my mother had put some nail polish to mark her. She also had a gash in her shell but not that bad. I flushed it a little with hydrogen peroxide and put some of the 1% silver sulfadiazine cream in it. The next morning, I did not see her at first. Then, I discovered her hanging on a pot in my 1800 gallon pond! She would never have gotten out on her own with the rock walls but luckily the shallow area saved her from drowning. I fished her out and put her back next to the hole. She later moved and started on another hole. One eye looked a little suspicious like before but not enough to pull her from the wild. She hung around a few more days and again on 5/31/04, I had to fish her out of the pond! She dug four holes in the mulch but never left eggs. On 5/30/04, my brother discovered another box turtle on our land! It was not her as she was by the pond at the same time. This other one might be male since his eyes are almost red, and the plastron is slightly concave. I thought the box turtles were all dead! I am so glad I was totally wrong!

I saw Freddie junior (looks like Freddie but less damage to her back) in the spring of 2005 once and on 11/5/05 on a 70 degree F day. She was booking down the road so I brought her back to the middle of our property. I sure hope she can avoid the cars, lawn mowers, and kids who might take her. She is full size. This time, her eyes had turned red, typical of males, but her plastron was flat (meaning she is still female).

In May of 2006, I came across a male box turtle but did not do anything with him. On 5/31/06, my mother found Freddie Junior and stuck her in a box with some water to drink (it was really hot). When I got home, I took photos (below), gave her a king mealworm which she scarfed up, and let her go.

I saw our resident female box turtle walking by the road on 5/11/13 in the rain.

When I got home on 7/22/15, I was feeding the pond fish and looked up to the big rock that creates the spill rock for the main waterfall. There was a huge turtle there with her head in the water. I thought she might have drowned or would fall in to the main pond and drown or get stuck. I climbed in the weedy waterfall to get her. She was a huge female Eastern box turtle. She had been gulping water. I put her in the weeds about 10 feet away so she can get more water if she wants but hopefully would not fall in or get stuck in the net.

This Freddie the box turtle hung around the pond for over a week, barely moving, drinking a lot, and not acting well at all. It was obvious to me that she had an upper respiratory infection and conjunctitis. She started producing foam out of her nose and mouth. I should have acted sooner to get her help but many people believe wild animals should be left alone.

I would later process photos of this turtle and confirm this Freddie is the same individual as the above-mentioned "Freddie Junior."

I got Freddie to the vet on 7/30/15. This young uneducated doctor did not even think she was really sick and wanted to do x-rays which I declined. I told him I wanted Baytril (enrofloxacin) shots for her. He insisted on liquid Baytril but I could not get her to open her mouth so I got shots the next day but only two of them (that's all they had) which I gave her the next two days. The morning of 8/3/15, I was able to give her an oral dose, and I got more shots the next day and gave her one. Unfortunately, she was too far in to her respiratory infection, and Freddie was dead the morning of 8/5/15. She may be the last female box turtle I will ever see on our land. I will report here if I ever see another one. I did finally see an adult male Eastern box turtle on 5/29/16 and took photos but still no females.

When I was mowing on 5/2/19, I came across not one, not two, but three adult Eastern box turtles! First was a regular male, then a regular female with some minor carapace damage, and then a huge female with red eyes! At least I think the turtle was female as her plastron was flat and not concave. Most red-eyed box turtles are male but sometimes a female has red eyes.

There are some more (old) box turtle sightings mentioned below with the photos from those sightings.

Photos of Our Box Turtles

Photos are listed from oldest to newest.

Here are three photos of the pair of box turtles that my mother came across in mid-September of 2003 that I scanned. The poor male was killed by vehicular manslaughter just days later. In all cases the male is on the right with his head out, and Freddie is hiding. It is a shame I never got to see the male alive. In fact, I have only once seen a live possible male on our property (5/30/04) but saw two hit by cars about three years apart.

Photo One
Photo Two
Photo Three

Here are some photos of Freddie up close the day before we released her on 10/18/03:

Freddie - all of her from a distance (that is an earthworm at the top)
Freddie's head
Freddie's carapace - it is a little greasy from the medication to treat the minor green growth problem
Freddie's head and front legs
Freddie's plastron

When Freddie returned on 5/29/04, I took these two photos:
Freddie from the side
Freddie's back - see the cut on the upper right and the pink nail polish on the lower back my mother marked her with the previous fall.

Here is a photo of another young female Eastern box turtle (not Freddie but Freddie Junior) on 9/13/04 that my mother held to show me. I gave her some water (which she is sitting in in the photo) and let her go.:
Female box turtle

Here are two photos of Freddie Junior on 5/31/06. I think this is the same turtle as the last photo.
Female box turtle
Female box turtle

On 10/7/07, in the morning, I saw a box turtle on my pond net! That is not normal for that time of the year. They should be getting ready to hibernate. Instead, it was nearly 90 degrees F, and this guy wanted water. I was surprised to find the box turtle was a mature male. I have not seen one of those on our land in years since the resident male was killed by vehicular manslaughter. This one had the red eyes and concave plastron which makes it sure that he is male. He was stuck under the net.
Male box turtle - stuck under the net
Male box turtle - free

On 6/9/08, my mother found a male box turtle in the neighbor's driveway, probably the same as the one in the last batch of photos from last year. She put him in a box to give him water (it was 95 degrees F) and to show me when I got home. I took photos and released him on our land. Here are some photos of him:
Male box turtle - top/carapace view, note his red eyes
Male box turtle - bottom/plastron view, not really in focus, note the concave plastron (like a bowl)

On 8/31/08, my mother found our male and female box turtles. He was trying to mate with her near the end of the road (where others drive). We carried them back on to our land, took a few photos, and let them go behind the chicken pen. I am glad they are doing well!
Pair of box turtles - female on the left (Freddie Junior?) and male on the right.

On 8/2/12, I was out on a walk with my niece when we came across this funny picture in the back yard! A pair was mating (similar to four years previous) but the male had attached and then had flipped over.
Mating box turtles - male on the left, female on the right. They are attached.
Mating box turtles - another view.
Mating box turtles - another view

Refer to the section above about Freddie from July and August of 2015. Looking at the photos of Freddie from 5/31/06, this is definitely the same turtle (called Freddie Junior above). These are photos of her a few days before the end, eyes infected, not eating or moving:

From 7/30/15, my last wild female Eastern box turtle:
Freddie - left front view.
Freddie - right view.
Freddie - top (carapace) view.
Freddie - bottom (plastron) view.

I came across a male box turtle on 5/29/16. There was a little slug just ahead of him (not in the photo). Comparing photos to the male above, this is not the same individual. Yeah, there may be more than one! Now, with Freddie gone, we just need a new female to show up.
Male Eastern box turtle - carapace view. Yep, he defecated on the left.
Male Eastern box turtle - plastron view. Note the bowl-shape indicating that he is male.

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