Eastern Box Turtle: Ultimate Guide

Male vs Female 

The easiest ways of sexing the Eastern Box Turtle include checking the size of them and checking their eyes. Generally, the male Eastern Box Turtle will be far larger than its female counterpart. As well as this, they each have different colored eyes. Males have red eyes, whereas females have yellow-brownish-colored eyes. 


To identify the Eastern Box Turtle you should look out for a small reptile that is usually under 6 inches. They weigh less than a pound, usually, and feature a tall shell (also known as a carapace) that looks like a box.

Look out for a brown carapace with yellow, orange, or pale brown markings. Their skin is scaly and brown but may also have yellow markings on there. 

As a Pet

Eastern Box Turtles are often kept as pets because of their small size, cute appearance, and interesting behaviors. That being said, lots of Eastern Box Turtles end up at rescues when people realize the often lifelong commitment of looking after them since many of them outlive their owners. Read our section on Eastern Box Turtle care to learn more about keeping them as pets. 


The average lifespan of the Eastern Box Turtle is around 40 years. However, it is not unusual to hear of them reaching the grand old age of 100, putting many humans to shame!

They may have a better chance of reaching 100 when looked after by humans, though, since they have less of a risk of disease and predators, as well as environmental struggles. 


The main, and most impressive, adaptation made by Eastern Box Turtles is the fact that they can retreat into their shells. Each adult Eastern Box Turtle has the ability to contract its head and limbs into its shell when it wants to sleep, rest, hibernate, or protect itself from predators. This is one of the contributing factors to their long lifespans. 

Breeding Season

The breeding season of the Eastern Box Turtle runs from April to October. This may seem pretty long but actually, it can be quite difficult for these creatures to mate, since there may be sparse choices for breeding mates around. 

When the female is impregnated, it can keep hold of the sperm in its body for up to 4 years! This means she can have multiple hatchlings. Like many other turtles, they lay their eggs in clutches. Keep on reading to the next section to find out more about their eggs. 


The eggs of the Eastern Box Turtle are laid in clutches which means a group of eggs laid at one single time in one single place, such as a nest. These clutches can contain 4 or 5 eggs, meaning there will be 4 or 5 hatchlings. 

The sex of the hatchlings depends on the temperature of the best. The warmer the nest, the more chance of hatching a female. The colder it is, the higher the chance of hatching a male. 

Growth Rate

Eastern Box Turtles grow throughout their lives, from the moment they are hatched, right up until they reach sexual maturity. This can be at the age of 10 right up to the age of 20 of course, the average lifespan is double that, and so they do not grow much more, usually ending up at 6 inches or less. 

Life Cycle

Typically, an Eastern Box Turtle will mate from April to October, as you will already know from a previous section. Nesting can occur from May to July, this happens when they reach maturity, of course, which varies depending on the sex of the turtle. Usually, you will find they reach maturity anywhere from 10 to 20 years old. 

When hatchlings are first born they tend to spend winter in their nests. After this, they will be fully independent. Some may emerge and find adults to hibernate with. They will continue to grow until they reach sexual maturity and then the cycle begins again. 


Nationwide, the Eastern Box Turtle is not considered an endangered species. However, there are some states that declare it as such. Maine, for example, lists it as endangered in that state. 

Connecticut, Michigan, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire all list it as a species of ‘special concern’ which means it is at risk of being endangered. 

There is no definitive data on the exact population of Eastern Box Turtles in the wild, however, numbers are thought to be decreasing, making them a vulnerable species. 


Eastern box turtles do not have one specific set diet, as their dietary needs and preferences vary depending on where in the US they are. It is also reliant on the environment, the temperature, and the lighting where they are. 

Their diet is not what keeps them going as such. If they cannot find an adequate food source they will just retreat into their shells until the conditions improve and the food sources get better. 

Typically, Eastern box turtles will chow down on a variety of food sources such as slugs, carrion (decaying dead animals), grubs, duckweed, mushrooms, berries, fallen fruit, grass, caterpillars, weeds, worms, snails, beetles, flowers, and much more. They have an even more varied diet than most humans! 


The predators of the Eastern Box Turtle are few and far between. This is because, as adults, they can retreat into their shells. However, the eggs and hatchlings are at risk of a number of predators, including snakes, foxes, raccoons, coyotes, owls, skunks, chipmunks, and coyotes. 

Roaming Range

The roaming range of the Eastern Box Turtle is actually relatively small. They are not usually found more than 328 feet from their homes. This is around 100 meters for you metric folk! In a single day, they may travel up to 50 yards, but will never go much further than this and will always come back home. 


The diseases that Eastern Box Turtles are prone to include respiratory infections, shell rot, shell ulcers, gastrointestinal parasites, and vitamin deficiency. As with all shelled creatures, they are also at risk of shell abnormalities. 

Eye Color

The male Eastern Box Turtle usually has red eyes. The female Eastern Box Turtle, on the other hand, can be found to have yellow or brown eyes. This is, as you will already know, one of the best ways of sexing your Eastern Box Turtle – just look at their eye color! 


Eastern Box Turtle hibernates in the cold weather. They typically do this in the winter months and then emerge when the environment around them improves. This relates to both the lack of food sources and the temperatures. 

Can they Swim?

They can swim, but they are not strong swimmers and prefer to be terrestrial (this means they need solid ground). Rather than swimming, they prefer to bask in the sun. They do need access to water for drinking, though, and to keep cool if needed. 


Most aquariums will be far too small for the Eastern Box Turtle, and so you will need to ensure you have plenty of space for them. A pen or enclosure that is at least 18 inches long and around four feet in length is adequate, but if you can get some even bigger space that would be better. 

You need to ensure that their environment is as close to their natural environment as possible. It needs to be shaded in some areas but also lets sunlight in. They like their pen to have areas that reach around 88 degrees Fahrenheit and a shaded area of around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not let it drop lower than this. 


The price of the Eastern Box Turtle can vary greatly depending on where you buy it, their age, their size, and the demand on the market at the time. They can range from anywhere between $50 to $300. 

You may also be able to get one from a rescue center since so many people give up their Eastern Box Turtle when they realize how much work it can take to look after a reptile. 

Rescue centers may charge adoption fees or may allow them to be given for free, but all of them will require some serious background checks before you will be allowed to adopt the Eastern Box Turtle. 

Fun Facts

  • If mating has been successful, the female Eastern Box Turtle can lay eggs and have hatchlings for up to 4 years! They just keep on coming and there can be many hatchlings from just one mating season! 
  • The Eastern Box Turtle is the State reptile of two North American states. These are Tennessee and North Carolina. They were also a runner up to be named the State Reptile of Pennsylvania in 2009 but narrowly missed out!
  • Eastern Box Turtle can actually eat poisonous mushrooms without becoming unwell. These provide an excellent food source for the turtles, but also serve as revenge! These mushrooms make the flesh of the turtle poisonous, meaning any predators that attack them will be poisoned.