This turtle's shell has a fancy
look to it. Each shell segment (scute)
has a radiating pattern of yellow lines on a dark
Males have bright red or orange
eyes. This color is usually repeated on the front
legs, face and neck. In females, the color in
these areas resemble the yellow of the stripes on
the shell. Females are slightly larger than
males, and the male's lower shell (plastron)
is usually slightly concave.
This turtle is found from South
Dakota to southern Arizona and the Rio Grande
valley, with the Mississippi River marking the
easternmost part of its range. It lives in
prairies and pastures.
Habits and Behaviors
The ornate box turtle is active
from April through October. It may spend its
entire life within an area of only a few acres.
The "hinge" in the box
turtle's pastron allows it to withdraw its legs,
tail, head and neck within its shell for
protection from predators.
Insects, spiders and worms make
up most of the ornate box turtle's diet. In cow
pastures, box turtles may be found around dung
piles looking for beetles. They will also eat
some vegetable matter, with a special preference
Eggs are laid in early summer.
The nest is a hole dug into the ground by the
female, into which she lays 2 to 8 white eggs.
Once laid the eggs are not guarded or incubated
by the female. They hatch in about two months.
Some females will lay a second clutch later in
In autumn the box turtle will
dig itself into the earth and prepare to shut
down until spring. It may only get a few inches
below the ground surface, but that is usually
enough to get it through the winter.
The ornate box turtle is the
official state reptile of Kansas.
genus & species Terrapene ornata
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