Eastern Box Turtles (EBT) are the most common terrestrial or land turtle found in North Carolina. They have a domed carapace or upper shell that is highly variable in pattern and coloration. Their plastron or lower shell is hinged allowing these turtles to completely hide their head, legs, and tail in their shell.
Differentiating between male and female box turtles is relatively easy. Males tend to have bright red to orange eyes whereas females usually have yellow to dark brown eyes. This difference is due to the lack of eye pigments in males. Thus, the red-orange coloration in males comes from their blood. Many of the male EBT that we see at Turtle Rescue Team present with white eyes, indicating a severe anemia often due to blood loss from a traumatic injury.
Another way to distinguish a male EBT from a female EBT is to look at their plastron. Males tend to have a concave plastron in order to mount the female during breeding season. Females usually have a flat plastron. Tail length is also another good indicator of sex. Males will usually have longer tails than females.
Box turtles are fairly docile animals which is why they have historically been kept as pets. However, Turtle Rescue Team strongly discourages removing any healthy turtle from their natural habitat and housing them as pets in captivity. Though they tend not to show it, turtles can get extremely stressed in captivity and are also prone to nutritional deficits. Additionally, turtles can spread infectious diseases to people most notably Salmonella. Please go to ‘Keeping Turtles as Pets’ to read more about this topic.