Turtles have slowly moved across the planet since prehistoric times. Those that live on land, usually called tortoises, are mostly vegetarians. While there are about 225 species of turtles, most are aquatic. Among the few who do live on land are the giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands and the common box turtles of North America. The habitat of box turtles is generally similar across species and subspecies, though it does differ slightly.
Western Box Turtle
The western box turtle (Terrapene ornata) is commonly referred to as the ornate box turtle. It seeks a habitat that is arid and open. It is often found in grasslands where it feeds on insects, berries, leaves and sometimes carrion. It is also found in sandy soils and can sometimes be found in desert habitats. It creates shallow burrows in the soil to avoid extreme temperatures.
Eastern Box Turtle
The eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) is found from Michigan and Maine down into the southern United States. Known as the common box turtle, Terrapene carolina carolina inhabits a wide variety of habitats and can be found in wooded areas, field edges, thickets and stream banks. Most often they are seen in deciduous forests. They burrow during warm weather and feed on earthworms, slugs, snails, insects, frogs, toads, leaves, grass, berries and fungi.
Florida Box Turtle
The Florida box turtle (Terrapene carolina bauri), a subspecies of the eastern box turtle, is found on the Florida peninsula. In the wild, the Florida box turtle is found in damp wetlands, marshes and wooded areas. Much of the native habitat of the Florida box turtle, which is often sold in the pet trade, has been lost, and it is now considered threatened. It is illegal to remove a Florida box turtle from the wild.
Three-Toed Box Turtle
The three-toed box turtle (Terrapene carolina triunguis), a subspecies of the eastern box turtle, has a range west of the Mississippi River and through the Midwest and Texas. Three-toed box turtles seek a habitat with woodlands and damp brush. They can also be found in meadows and usually live near a source of water.
Gulf Coast Box Turtle
The Gulf Coast box turtle (Terrapene carolina major), a subspecies of the eastern box turtle, is found from the panhandle of Florida to the gulf coast of eastern Texas. It is the largest box turtle found in North America. It is most often found near estuaries and in swampy areas. Its preferred habitat is near shallow bodies of water.