What’s Our State Reptile?
The eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina), of course! This slow-crawling but persistent land critter normally has a 4.5- to-6-inch shell width and up to eight inches of shell length. Its dome-like upper shell is called a carapace, ranging from a highly camouflaged green to a brightly marked, brownish black with yellow and orange highlights. The head, neck and legs are also heavily patterned with distinctive yellow to orange and, occasionally, reddish streaks. Eastern box turtles’ under shells (plastrons) range from yellow-brown to brownish-black. When threatened, it protectively withdraws into its shell — its hinged plastrons make it possible for the turtle to close its carapace quite tightly.
Tip: Eastern box turtles possess strong homing instincts and their directionality is “one way.” If you rescue one crossing a road, take it to the side in the direction it was going!
Be safe: Reptiles and amphibians can carry Salmonella germs on their bodies even when they appear healthy and clean, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water (or use hand sanitizer) after handling, being extra careful with children under five years old.
To see photos of eggs, emerging hatchlings and baby turtles: