Box Turtles in Alabama
By Bennett Moseley, Wildlife Biologist
Box turtles are common in most parts of
Two of the most common subspecies in
Mating season usually begins in the spring and continues throughout the summer. Males have been known to mate with several different females or one female several times over a period of years. It is possible for a female to lay fertile eggs up to four years after a successful mating. Both Eastern box turtles and
Box turtles are long-lived reptiles and may live for more than a hundred years. Their flesh has been consumed for food; however, they are dangerous to eat because their diet consists of mushrooms that may be toxic to humans. These toxins may remain in their flesh for long periods. Box turtles are omnivorous and feed on insects as well as berries, fungi, worms, roots, slugs, flowers, frogs, salamanders and snakes. They will eat eggs indiscriminately and have been observed eating carrion.
Population numbers of these turtles have been declining in recent decades largely due to habitat destruction. Much of the loss can be attributed to residential construction, highways, and commercial developments. Roads present a great hazard to turtles. Large numbers are lost to automobiles each year. Another possible reason for this decline in population might be attributed to the increase in the illegal pet trade of reptiles and amphibians.
Alabama has adopted regulations protecting many animals, including box turtles, against this illegal trade. These regulations make it unlawful to offer for sale or trade anything of value for any box turtle, box turtle part or reproductive product. This is definitely a step in the right direction and it is hoped that future research on habitat and environmental needs will further protect these subspecies of box turtles. In the meantime, a kind act such as safely removing one from the road might go a long way in preserving these animals for future generations