Discover Maryland's Herps

Field Guide to Maryland's Turtles (Order Testudines)

Family Emydidae

Eastern Box Turtle
Terrapine c. carolina

Photo of  Eastern Box Turtle courtesy of Scott A. Smith
Photo of  Eastern Box Turtle courtesy of Scott A. Smith


4 - 6 inches. Record - 7 inches.


  • A high dome-like keeled carapace (top shell) of brown or black, with extremely variable yellow, orange or olive pattern of radiating lines, spots, bars or irregular blotches on each scute.
  • Each scute has concentric growth rings, also giving the shell a sculpted appearance.
  • The plastron (bottom shell) is strongly hinged (single) forming two movable lobes, the front lobe narrower.
  • Four toes on each hind foot.
  • Males have red eyes (usually but not always), while female’s eyes are yellowish brown.

Photo of Habitat for Eastern Box Turtle courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers
Photo of Habitat for Eastern Box Turtle
courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers


A terrestrial species, commonly encountered in rich, open woodlands and riparian forests, but may also be found in pastures and wet meadows, and during hot weather may be found soaking in shallow
waters and mucks of various wetland types or under leaf litter.

How to Find

Commonly found during the day crossing roads between forest and wetland habitats in spring and summer. Search in moist open woodlands, grassy fields and wetland edges. Active early April to

Distribution in Maryland

Found throughout Maryland.


Maryland Distribution Map for Eastern Box Turtle



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Maryland Amphibian
and Reptile Atlas Project

"A Joint Project of the Natural History Society of Maryland, Inc. and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources"

For monthly newsletters of the Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project click on Recent Newsletters and scroll down to the MARA Newsletters.

The Maryland Herpetology Field Guide is a cooperative effort of the MD Natural Heritage Program and the MD Biological Stream Survey within the Department of Natural Resources and their partners. We wish to thank all who contributed field records, text, and photographs, as well as support throughout its development.