Eastern Box Turtles Are On the Move

Corinne Lackner Stephens - October 15, 2012

Eastern box turtles are on the move! This weekend, I stopped my car twice to help two different male eastern box turtles (Terrapene c. carolina) safely cross the road.

Turtles move for many reasons. They search for food, escape from unsuitable habitat, seek mates, search for perfect nesting sites, and hide from predators. This October, our turtle friends are preparing to hibernate for the winter. Eastern box turtles are terrestrial, meaning they live predominantly on land, and they over winter under loose earth, mud, stream bottoms, mammal burrows, or old stump holes.

The eastern box turtle’s hinged shell is no match for a vehicle. Turtle road mortalities affect more than just unlucky individuals; every adult turtle in a population may play an important, even crucial, role in that population’s longterm survival.

So, if you are driving through eastern box turtle habitat (usually open woodlands, grassy fields, and wetland edges), please be on the lookout for turtles on the move! If you notice a turtle in the road, consider moving him or her (if it’s safe for you to stop your car!) to a safe location off the road, in the direction he or she is headed. If you find an injured turtle or need advice, please contact a wildlife rehabilitator: (www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/Plants_Wildlife/rehab.asp).

Montgomery County is home to many turtles, in addition to the eastern box turtle. Visit these websites for more information about other turtle species found in Maryland: wwwnew.towson.edu/herpetology/Reptiles.htm and www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/Plants_Wildlife/herps/Testudines/FieldGuide_OrderTestudines.asp and www6.montgomerycountymd.gov/dectmpl.asp?url=/content/dep/water/monBioAmph.asp

Sligo Creek Park is home to a great variety and abundance of plants, animals, and habitats, all of which the Friends of Sligo Creek seeks to document, enjoy, and protect. See www.fosc.org/NaturalHistory.htm

About the author:
Corinne Lackner Stephens is a Certification Manager/ Wildlife Biologist for the Wildlife Habitat Council in Silver Spring, MD. WHC is very active in volunteering with FoSC exotic invasive plants removal work.