Terrapene carolina
(Agassiz 1857)

tĕr-ŭh-pē-nē — kă-rə-'lī-nə

An adult Three-toed Box Turtle from Allen County, Kansas. © Travis W. Taggart.
The plastron of an adult Three-toed Box Turtle from Coffey County, KS. © Don Eccles.
An adult Three-toed Box Turtle from Coffey County, KS. © Don Eccles.
Plastron of an Eastern Box Turtle from Chisholm Creek Park, Sedgwick County, KS. Image © Ryan Philbrick.
An Eastern Box Turtle from Chisholm Creek Park, Sedgwick County, KS. Image © Ryan Philbrick
Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.

Eastern Box Turtles in Kansas, typically have three toes on their hind feet. However, 4-toed examples do show up occasionally. The highest part of its carapace or upper shell is more posteriorly positioned than in the other subspecies. The dorsal and limb coloration may be uniformly olive with some dark blotches in adult turtles. More often, the carapace will possess faint yellow radiating dots or lines on each large scute. In the males, the head, throat, and forelegs often display bright yellow, red, or orange spots. The plastron is a light yellow to tan with the sutures between scutes appearing a darker brown.
Adults normally 113- 150 mm (4 1/2-6 inches) in carapace length; largest specimen from Kansas: female (KU 218958) from Wyandotte County with carapace length of 179 mm (7 inches), collected by Tom Sullivan and Stanley D. Roth on 1 June 1989; maximum carapace length throughout range: 8½ inches (Conant and Collins, 1998).

Older records in Collins (1993) from Coffey County (KU 3017-20) are too imprecise to map, however, recent photographs turned in by Don Eccles lend support that this turtle may still exist there. Collins (1993) did not plot a 1912 record (USNM 55588) from Marion County and a 1925 record (KU 1918) from Stafford County. Both records are given to county only and are therefore too imprecise to map. He also did not plot records for Riley and Pottawatomie counties. All of these records are in need of corroboration. Pleistocene fossil specimens are known from as far west as McPherson and Meade counties, indicating the possibility of local relict populations existing in suitable habitat along the major drainages into the Flint Hills. A specimen (KU 1918) from Stafford County listed in Collins (1974) was reidentified as Terrapene ornata prior to Collins (1982).

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
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  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 274 Total Records 
  • 228 Museum Vouchers 
  • 46 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (6); Bourbon (24); Butler (1); Chautauqua (9); Cherokee (108); Coffey (5); Cowley (4); Crawford (20); Douglas (4); Elk (3); Franklin (2); Greenwood (2); Johnson (3); Labette (12); Leavenworth (1); Linn (3); Marion (1); Miami (2); Montgomery (27); Neosho (12); Pottawatomie (1); Riley (1); Sedgwick (2); Shawnee (1); Sumner (1); Unknown (9); Wilson (5); Woodson (1); Wyandotte (4);

Natural History:
The Three-toed Box Turtle is predominantly a woodland species restricted to eastern Kansas. Individuals have been spread westward due to their popularity as pets. Activity is driven by humidity, with most movement occurring after rainfalls. Although primarily terrestrial, Three-toed Box Turtles can occasionally be found soaking in shallow pools. They have also been observed swimming across rivers and reservoirs. Three-toed Box Turtles are omnivorous, eating mushrooms, berries, insects and other invertebrates.

Occurrence Activity:
White dates indicate there is at least a single recorded occurrence on that date. The darker blue a date is, the greater the relative number of observations for that date.

1907 Ditmars, Raymond L. The Reptile Book; A comprehensive, Popularised Work on the Structure and Habits of the Turtles, Tortoises, Crocodilians, Lizards and Snakes which Inhabit the United States and Northern Mexico. Doubleday, Pae, and Company, New York. 472pp.
1928 Burt, Charles E. Some distributional and ecological records of Kansas reptiles. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 26():186-208
1932 Gloyd, Howard K. The herpetological fauna of the Pigeon Lake Region, Miami County, Kansas. Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan 15():389-408
1933 Stejneger, Leonhard and Thomas Barbour. A Checklist of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. 3rd Edition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge,Massachusetts. pp.
1934 Burt, Charles E. and W. L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1935 Burt, Charles E. and William L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1953 Schmidt, Karl P. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. 6th Edition. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois. 280pp.
1956 Clarke, Robert F. Identification of Kansas turtles. Kansas School Naturalist 2(4):1-3
1956 Clarke, Robert F. Turtles in Kansas. Kansas School Naturalist 2(4):1-15
1956 Loomis, Richard B. The chigger mites of Kansas (Acarina, Trombiculidae). University of Kansas Science Bulletin 37():1195-1443
1989 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1988. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (75):15-18
1991 Ernst, Carl H. Terrapene carolina. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (512):1-13
1991 Ernst, Carl H. Terrapene. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (511):1-6
1991 Fitch, Henry S. Reptiles and amphibians of the Kansas ecological reserves. Pages 71-74 in Multidisciplinary Guidebook 4. Kansas Academy of Science, Lawrence. pp.
1999 Taggart, Travis W. Cherokee County fall 1999 herp count. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (117):6
2000 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2000 fall field trip. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (122):6-8
2001 Taggart, Travis W. The KHS 2001 spring field trip: A rainy rendezvous. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):12-14
2002 Riedle, J. Daren and A. Hynek. Amphibian and reptile inventory of the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant, Labette County, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (2):18-20
2005 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2005 fall field trip [to Crawford County]. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (16):19-21
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Distribution and status of Kansas herpetofauna in need of information. State Wildlife Grant T7. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. vii + 106pp.
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
2019 Riedle, Daren. Conservation conversations: Coming at you like a herd of turtles. Kansas Wildlife and Parks Magazine July/August():15
Account Last Updated:
6/26/2018 4:37:45 PM

Travis W. Taggart © 2020 — Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University