The eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) ranges from northeastern Massachusetts to Georgia, west to Michigan, Illinois, and Tennessee (Conant and Collins, 1991). The eastern box turtle is small, with adults ranging from 11.5 to 15.2 cm in length (plastron) and approximately 300 to over 400 g. Hatchlings weigh approximately 8 to 10 g. Turtles continue to grow throughout their lives; however, their growth rate slows after reaching sexual maturity (Ernst and Barbour, 1972), and growth rings are no longer discernable after 18 to 20 years (Stickel, 1978). Body fat reserves in a Georgia population averaged 0.058 to 0.060 g of fat per gram of lean dry weight from spring through fall (Brisbin, 1972).
Typical box turtle habitats include open woodlands, thickets, and well- drained but moist forested areas (Stickel, 1950), but occasionally pastures and marshy meadows are utilized (Ernst and Barbour, 1972). In areas with mixed woodlands and grasslands, box turtles use grassland areas in times of moderate temperatures and peak moisture conditions; otherwise, they tend to use the more moist forested habitats (Reagan, 1974). Many turtles are killed attempting to cross roads, and fragmentation of habitat by roads can severely reduce populations (DeGraaf and Rudis, 1983; Stickel, 1978).
Adult T. carolina are omnivorous (Ernst and Barbour, 1972). When young, they are primarily carnivorous, but they become more herbivorous as they age and as growth slows (Ernst and Barbour, 1972). They consume a wide variety of animal material, including earthworms, slugs, snails, insects and their larvae (particularly grasshoppers, moths, and beetles), crayfish, frogs, toads, snakes, and carrion; they also consume vegetable matter, including leaves, grass, berries, fruits, and fungi (DeGraaf and Rudis, 1983). A high proportion of snails and slugs may comprise the animal matter in the diet (Barbour, 1950), and seeds can become an important component of the plant materials in the late summer and fall (Klimstra and Newsome, 1960).
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