Box turtles can live to be more than 100 years old, so it is not surprising these creatures have their own fascinating story to tell. These North American turtles are often kept as pets, and kids can learn plenty of interesting facts about what they eat and how they like to live.
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The box turtle is only found in North America and Mexico. The two main species in North America are the eastern box turtle and the western box turtle. The eastern box turtle is then split into four subspecies: the Florida box turtle, the Gulf Coast box turtle, the three-toed box turtle and the eastern box turtle. The western box turtle is smaller than the eastern turtle and is also known as the ornate box turtle.
Box turtles come out in the daytime and burrow slightly into the ground to sleep at night. In warm weather they will find a cool place to go and venture out in the mornings or at dusk. They hibernate in winter by burrowing into the earth and often go back to the same hibernation spot each year. They will come out again around April. They like to live in grassland and woodland areas or near ponds. Female box turtles can lay up to eight eggs, which take about three months to hatch.
The top part of a box turtle's shell is called the carapace, and the shell under the body is called the plastron. The turtle is able to go inside the shell and close it up when it feels threatened. Males have red irises, and females have yellowish-brown irises. An average box turtle is about 5 inches long, and its age can be worked out by counting the rings on the shell. The shell is brown, sometimes with yellow or orange markings.
Box turtles in a zoo will be fed salad and insects such as worms and crickets, but in the wild they eat snails, fish, frogs and even dead birds or mammals. Young turtles grow for the first five or six years of their life, so they tend to eat more meat and hunt for food in ponds and streams. Adults eat less meat and more berries, fungi, flowers and roots, so they feed more on land.
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