North American box turtles are omnivores with a varied diet, as a box turtle will "basically eat anything it can catch". Invertebrates (amongst others insects, earth worms, millipedes) form the principal component, but the diet also consists for a large part (reports range from 30-90%) of vegetation. The diet is amended with fruits (amongst others from cacti, apples and several species of berry), gastropods (Heliosoma, Succinea). While reports exist that during their first five to six years, box turtles are primarily carnivorous, while adults are mostly herbivorous, there is no scientific basis for such a difference.
Box turtles are native to North America. The widest distributed species is the common box turtle which is found in the United States (subspecies carolina, major, bauri, triunguis; South-Central, Eastern, and South Eastern parts) and Mexico (subspecies yukatana and mexicana; Yucatán peninsula and North Eastern parts). The Ornate box turtle is endemic to the south-central and South Western parts of the U.S. (and adjacent Mexico) while the spotted box turtle is endemic to North-Western Mexico only. The coahuilan box turtle is only found in Cuatro Ciénegas Basin (Coahuila, Mexico).
Because box turtles occupy a wide variety of habitats (which both vary on a day-to-day, season-to-season, but also species-to-species basis), a standard box turtle habitat can not be identified. Mesic woodlands are a habitat where box turtles are generally found. T. ornata is the only species regularly found in grasslands, but its subspecies the desert box turtle is also found in the semidesert with rainfall predominantly in summer. The single location where Coahuilan box turtles are found is a 360 km2 region characterized by marshes, permanent presence of water and several types of cacti.
Prior to hibernation, box turtles tend to move further into the woods, where they dig a chamber for overwintering. Ornate box turtles dig chambers up to 50 centimeters, while Eastern box turtles hibernate at depth of about 10 centimeters. The location for overwintering can be up to 0.5 km from the summer habitat and is often in close proximity to that of the previous year. In more southern locations, turtles are active year-round, as has been observed for T. coahuila and T.c.major'. Other box turtles in higher temperatures are more active (T.c.yukatana) or only active during the wet seasons.
Most turtle and tortoise societies recommend against box turtles as pets for small children. Box turtles are easily stressed by over-handling and require more care than is generally thought. Box turtles get stressed when moved into new surroundings. Some specimens will wander aimlessly until they die trying to find their original home if they are removed from the exact area they grew up in. Three Toed Box Turtles are often considered the best species to keep as pets since they are hardy and seem to suffer less from being moved into a new environment.
Box turtles can be injured by dogs and cats so special care must be taken to protect them from household pets. Box turtles require an outdoor enclosure, consistent exposure to the sun and a varied diet. Without these, a turtle's growth can be stunted and its immune system weakened.
LENGTH: 5 TO 8 INCHES
WIEGHT: .5 TO 6 POUNDS
LIFESPAN: 34 TO 100 YEARS