Box Turtle Observation Project

For several years, I have been rescuing box turtles from Washington County roadways. Most of them are immediately released to the far side of the road; but, in several cases, I have kept the turtles for longer-term observation. Since I'm an entomologist, not a herpetologist (Jim!), the observations I record here will be somewhat less scientific than one might expect in Copeia, but more scientific than most of what I have seen on the web. I want to caution you here that eastern box turtles are different critters than their southern and Asian counterparts and that some of the care instructions I have seen on the net will harm the animals. These turtles make lousy pets but fascinating scientific subjects.

Important note - if you find a box turtle, please, please, please do not pick it up and take it home or release it elsewhere.  I have become convinced of late that it is far more harmful to release a turtle to a new area in the wild than it is to leave it in place.  For more info, see my page on "free & wild" turtles, or read the FAQ. If you have picked up a turtle, please return it to where you found it ASAP.  Yes, even if the place is in the middle of a city.  The best thing you can do for a turtle on the road is to move it to the side it was heading to - only if you can do so safely.

If your turtle has laid eggs, please see the appropriate section in the FAQ

Special Note - Folks - it's been over 10 years since I started these pages, and they've gotten over 100,000 hits.  It's been a lot of fun, but...  I was checking my email today - July 19th, 2007 - and I realized that the email is coming in much faster than I can answer it.  To my horror, when I checked this site I realized it hadn't been updated for over 2 years, since just before my first trip to Costa Rica (and I just got back from another).

The site went up originally to help box turtles and for me to use in my classes.  I'm using it a lot less now for the latter, and that makes it tougher to justify my time spent on the site.  Regretfully, I will no longer be able to update it regularly (actually, since I haven't done much updating, it's more like I won't be able to ignore it regularly).  I'm leaving my email address up in a couple of places, but I really can't guarantee that I'll be able to answer inquiries.  Unfortunately, most questions come over the summer, and that is in some ways my busiest time.  I feel terrible about all the email I've been unable to answer over the years.

What about the turtles?  They are in "retirement"; state laws says they cannot be released to the wild.  Unfortunately, the turtles don't know that and we have a constant stream of babies to deal with, so I am talking to the state about getting permission to release juvenile turtles once they are large enough to avoid some predation.  The importance of this was driven home this spring when an unknown animal (possibly a neighbor's free-ranging cat) got into one of the beds and killed 2 juvenile turtles.  The remainder of the juveniles have been brought in pending construction of a predator-proof pen for them.  I also lost two turtles this past year due to hibernation problems. This started last fall when unusually warm fall temperatures caused the turtles to dig out of the area I had buried them for "pre-hibernation"; they then dug in themselves and I couldn't find them to bring them into the garage for the coldest part of the winter.  We had some really cold days.  4 turtles hibernated outside.  2emerged fine (Dylan and Carol); one was blind and barely responsive (Terry) and one has not been seen since last fall (Gilbert).  Unfortunately, despite some heroic efforts at feeding her, Terry stopped eating and died in June.  I had had her for 14 years.  All of the other turtles: Carol, Linus, Penny, Rosebud, Garagista, Dylan, Daisy, Worf, Han, Luke and Leia - are all doing fine.  Note that Dylan, Worf, Han Luke and Leia are all captive born and with any luck will all be released to the wild.

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Linda - Free!

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Carol and the babies?

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Last Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2008