Ornate Box Turtles are a species native to the United States. They can be found primarily in the Great Plains regions, where they need access to water and soil to burrow into. Ideally, they prefer the open prairie found across the Midwest.
Ornate Box Turtles are a fairly small turtle species, reaching around five inches across when fully grown. Males are smaller than females, though their markings typically look the same. They can be identified by the yellow markings on their shell, which include one long stripe down the middle flanked by a starburst of other stripes. Their body is usually a muddy brown color dotted with yellow.
Ornate Box Turtles, like many other turtle species, use burrows to help them survive. Not only do they bury themselves underground as a means to survive winter, but also as a way to cool off in the heat of the summer. They are excellent diggers, with feet and claws made for scratching up the earth.
These turtles need water to survive, and can often be seen hydrating themselves by soaking in a stream or pond. That being said, they do not spend a lot of time in water like some of their more aquatic cousins. Rather, they prefer to hydrate before returning to land and burrowing. They are opportunistic feeders, as well as omnivorous, so they will eat what they can find whenever they find it.
Because the Ornate Box Turtle has such a wide-ranging habitat, it is more threatened in some states than in others. Officially, they are categorized as near threatened, but in places like Wyoming, the situation is more dire. Climate change is upsetting the turtles' ability to regulate their temperature in both the winter and summer, occasionally resulting in death.
Easily the biggest threat to the turtle, however, is habitat loss. These turtles need a specific combination of ecosystem factors in order to survive, and human encroachment has taken away many areas of their native land. This also creates a problem where too few turtles remain to breed, and inbreeding causes genetic issues that only lead to more loss.
Where are they?
Our Ornate Box Turtle lives in an enclosure behind the glass in our Children's Animal Center.
Our turtle, Luna, can usually be seen eating or warming herself under her heat lamp.
Terrapene ornata ornata
Species Survival Plan
grasses, insects, fruits, vegetables and more
Originally Native To
The Midwestern United States
Small in size with muddy brown skin and a dark shell decorated with patterns of yellow lines.
25 years in the wild,
Solitary except during mating season.