This turtle gets its common name from the structure of its shell which consists of a high domed carapace (upper shell), and a large, hinged plastron (lower shell) which allows the turtle to close the shell, sealing its vulnerable head and limbs safely within an impregnable box.
The carapace is brown, often adorned with a variable pattern of orange or yellow lines, spots, bars, or blotches. The plastron is dark brown and may be uniformly coloured, or show darker blotches or smudges. The Common box turtle has a small to a moderately sized head and a distinctive hooked upper jaw. The majority of adult males have red irises, while those of the females are yellowish-brown. Males also differ from females by possessing shorter, stockier, and more curved claws on their hind feet, and longer and thicker tails.
Common Box Turtles do become too hot (when their body temperature rises to around 32°C), they smear saliva over their legs and head; as the saliva evaporates it leaves them comfortably cooler. Similarly, they may urinate on their hind limbs to cool the body parts they are unable to cover with saliva.
In the northern parts of their range, Common Box Turtles may enter hibernation in October or November. They burrow into loose soil, sand, vegetable matter, or mud at the bottom of streams and pools, or they may use a mammal burrow and will remain in their chosen shelter until the cold winter has passed.
Canada, United States, Mexico
Open wetlands, marshy meadows, near streams and ponds
Earthworms, slugs, small fish, salamanders, insects