Eastern Box Turtles (T. c. carolinia)

"GlowWorm"  (male) "Raspberry" (female)


PLEASE NOTE: We relocated to central Florida in January 2016.  Florida has native populations of EBT and thus does not allow them or their subspecies to be captive bred or sold in Florida. Therefore we dispersed our group prior to the move and can no longer work with them. As of now we no longer keep any of the U.S. native box turtles and will not have any available for purchase.  I'm leaving the descriptions below online for now for informational purposes only.  Please do not contact us for purchasing box turtles.  Thank you.


The Eastern  box turtle is the most variable and the brightest colored of the North American box turtles. They are also generally considered to be the most adaptable and thus the best suited for herpetoculture. They are moderately sized (4" to 6" on average as adults), with most maturing to a size roughly half way between a baseball and a softball. Like all North American box turtles, they have double-hinged plastrons. This allows them to pull completely into their shells and close the front and back "doors", thwarting most predators. The shell patterns vary tremendously, but 4 general patterns seem to exist. The two most striking are the "Bear-paw" where each scute has a paw print pattern on it, and the "Hieroglyphic" where each scute looks like it was drawn by an Egyptian scholar. The most common is a "Radiated" pattern which consists of radiating jagged stripes. If the lines fan out, it produces more of a "Spider  Web" pattern. A subset of these is  the "Thunderbird" pattern where each central scute has what looks like a "Phoenix bird" with raised wings in each scute (look at the back of the tortoise while it's facing you). The remaining scutes can be either a Spider Web or Hieroglyphic pattern. This is our favorite one as it is unique to the Eastern box turtle - no other turtle or tortoise has that look. It's hard to get clean examples of each of these patterns as most individuals tend to exhibit a blended pattern  (ex. "Salamander" and "Raspberry" are weakly Thunderbird patterned on a mixed Hieroglyphic/ Bear Paw pattern). "Spider" is a good example of  clean Thunderbird -Spider Web patterned shell.  How well these patterns can be bred for is as of yet undetermined.


"Spider" (Thunderbird Spider-web male) "Salamander" (our first EBT male)


The background shell color varies between shades of caramel to almost jet black. The overlaying markings are generally straw yellow but can be neon yellow to orange in exceptional individuals. Most males have yellow to orange scales against a darker background on the front legs with dark brown to black heads heads sporting  yellow to orange stripes or polka dots. Females generally have predominately brown skin with greatly reduced, paler markings, although exceptions occur (see the photo of "Raspberry" above). Females also tend to have  mahogany colored eyes while the eyes of most mature males develop a reddish tint. Note eye color alone is not a 100% accurate means of sexing them. The shape of the plastron (indented in the back half in males, relatively flat in females) and length of the tail (long in males with the vent opening being beyond the edge of the shell, and short in females with the vent opening being about even with the edge of the shell) are much more reliable means of determining the sex of adult box turtles. 

Once accustomed to their caretaker, most tame very well and readily eat from your hand. They tolerate handling well and while they will nip if you poke at their face, they are generally very non-aggressive. They do well in a 40 gallon "Critter Keeper"-Style tank or 3' long Rubbermaid type container. For those who live in moderate climates, they do well kept outdoors during the summer, then moved indoors before winter arrives. For indoor housing, the chucky version of  "Core" (coconut husk fiber) works great as the bedding.  Keep it around a half inch deep throughout most of the cage with a deeper corner where they can bury themselves. Keep the deep end moderately moist with the rest of the habitat just faintly moist to keep the humidity levels reasonably high. They prefer very moderate temperatures with highs in the upper 70's to mid 80'sF and night time lows in the low 70's.  Eastern Box turtles are omnivores, preferring a evenly mixed diet of leafy greens (we use Spring Mix, fruit (melons, strawberries, cubed apples, banana) and animal protein (earthworms being the favorite, along with canned chucky style dog food). We also add moistened Mazuri brand tortoise pellets for fiber and to round out the diet. Dust the food daily with a good calcium/mineral product (we prefer Rwpashy Calcium Hy-D or Miner-AL indoor) and several times a week with a multi-vitamin (we use Repashy SuperVeggie Dust  - both can be found on our "Essential Supplies page". 


Holding Pens for non-breeders Breeding Pen


Eastern Box turtles do need daily drinking water and we supply it via small plastic chick waterers (see photos above).  This allows the turtles easy access to drinking water but prevents them from crawling into the water dish and "relieving" themselves (which tortoises and land turtles are very fond of doing).  To compensate for this, we take our EBT's out once a week to give them a short soak in shallow warm water in a tub. 

The most common health issues with box turtles are eye and ear infections. These are most commonly caused by too dry of a cage (be sure to keep their sleeping end of the cage damp), too little vitamin A in the diet (always offer leafy greens as part of the diet and use a good vitamin supplement) or polluted drinking water (use the chick waterers and give them a weekly soak in water elsewhere). With proper care the Eastern box turtle has a life span of 50+ years.  

"Peacock" (Bear-paw female)




We ship based on the prevailing weather patterns between us and you. We can usually ship most weeks, but when large storms/severe heat/cold are forecasted, we prefer to hold off.   Please see  "Deer Fern Farms Ordering / Prices" for ordering information. Note we no longer sell U.S. native box turtles due to Florida's ban on such.


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Email: douglasdix@deerfernfarms.com

Copyright 1992-2016 by  Douglas Dix. All rights reserved for all photos and text