ORNATE BOX TURTLE
Terrapene ornata
(Agassiz 1857)


tĕr-ŭh-pē-nē — ŏr-nā-tă




Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
An adult from Waubaunsee County. Image © Jim Scharosch.

Description:
Box Turtles derive their name from the movable hinge on the plastron that allows them to close up and completely protect their head and limbs. The Ornate Box Turtle has distinct yellow lines radiating along the scutes of both the carapace and plastron.
Adult females have a typically yellowish brown iris, while the irises of most males are red. The first toe on the hind foot of males is thickened and turned in. The posterior portion of the plastron is flat or convex in females but is concave in males.
Male ornates often have a greenish or yellowish head. Females’ heads are usually brown. Males have longer, thicker tails than females. The male’s vent (opening to the cloaca) is farther away from his body than the female’s. This makes mating easier.
Adults normally 100-125 mm (4-5 inches) in carapace length; largest specimen from Kansas: female (KU 18358) from Barber County with a shell length of 154 mm (6 1/8 inches), collected by Hobart M. Smith and Claude W. Hibbard on 2 September 1933; maximum carapace length throughout range: 6 1/8 inches (Conant and Collins, 1998).


Distribution:
A specimen exists for Scott County (CAS-SUA 19241) but is only given to the county, and therefore cannot be mapped precisely. The record mapped by Collins (1993) from Jewell and Neosho counties, are unknown and not mapped.
Legler (1960) estimated densities in favorable Kansas habitats to be from 6.4 to 15.6 Ornate Box Turtles per hectare.

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
Open icons are questionable records; Click on a marker to view details. Export Google Earth (.kml)
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 1,495 Total Records 
  • 937 Museum Vouchers 
  • 558 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (6); Anderson (26); Atchison (3); Barber (35); Barton (3); Bourbon (21); Brown (3); Butler (6); Chase (8); Chautauqua (11); Cherokee (28); Cheyenne (34); Clark (11); Clay (1); Cloud (3); Coffey (4); Comanche (4); Cowley (39); Crawford (19); Decatur (7); Dickinson (6); Doniphan (5); Douglas (126); Edwards (11); Elk (2); Ellis (93); Ellsworth (5); Finney (138); Ford (25); Franklin (26); Geary (7); Gove (14); Graham (9); Grant (7); Gray (1); Greeley (1); Greenwood (21); Hamilton (31); Harper (13); Harvey (1); Haskell (6); Hodgeman (8); Jackson (1); Jefferson (4); Jewell (1); Johnson (1); Kearney (10); Kingman (8); Kiowa (17); Labette (16); Lane (4); Leavenworth (8); Lincoln (1); Linn (6); Logan (36); Lyon (7); Marion (7); McPherson (3); Meade (33); Miami (21); Mitchell (1); Montgomery (13); Morris (1); Morton (49); Nemaha (1); Neosho (4); Ness (4); Norton (3); Osage (5); Osborne (3); Ottawa (1); Pawnee (1); Phillips (13); Pottawatomie (4); Pratt (7); Rawlins (18); Reno (22); Republic (1); Rice (10); Riley (10); Rooks (6); Rush (3); Russell (45); Saline (9); Scott (4); Sedgwick (4); Seward (13); Shawnee (10); Sheridan (11); Sherman (3); Smith (1); Stafford (39); Stanton (9); Stevens (8); Sumner (13); Thomas (6); Trego (46); Unknown (11); Wabaunsee (10); Wallace (40); Washington (9); Wichita (2); Wilson (2); Woodson (4); Wyandotte (2);

Natural History:
The Ornate Box Turtle is a terrestrial species occurring primarily in open grasslands, but may also be found in open woodlands. Ornate Box Turtles are primarily carnivorous, preying on insects, earthworms, and carrion. Will also eat berries and other fruit. Females lay a clutch of 2-8 eggs between May and June, and may occasionally lay a second clutch later in the summer.
Legler (1960) found that most Kansas males become reproductively mature at 8-9 years (100-109 mm), while females were at 10-11 years (110-129mm).
Ornate Box Turtles are often found buried or half concealed in the sand of semi-arid tracts, where they may be dug out with the foot. Farther east they often rest in holes in the ground or in tunnels or depressions under the rocks of the prairie ledges (Burt, 1935).

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.
Remarks:
The Ornate Box Turtle is the official State Reptile of Kansas.
When disturbed the Ornate Box Turtle will typically withdraw into its shell. When picked up they typically expel water. 

Bibliography:
1884 Garman, Samuel. The North American reptiles and batrachians. Bulletin of the Essex Institute 16():1-46
1885 Cragin, Francis W. Recent additions to the list of Kansas reptiles and batrachians, with further notes on species previously reported. Bulletin of the Washburn College Laboratory of Natural History 1(3):100-103
1885 Cragin, Francis W. Second contribution to the herpetology of Kansas, with observations on the Kansas fauna. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 9():136-140
1887 Hay, Oliver P. The amphibians and reptiles of Indiana. [Unknown], Irvington, Indiana.. 20pp.
1887 Hay, Oliver P. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Indiana. Annual Report of the Indiana State Board of Agriculture XXVII(36):201-227
1928 Burt, Charles E. Some distributional and ecological records of Kansas reptiles. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 26():186-208
1929 Taylor, Edward H. List of reptiles and batrachians of Morton County, Kansas, reporting species new to the state fauna. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 19(6):63-65
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
1934 Brennan, Lawrence A. A check list of the amphibians and reptiles of Ellis County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():189-191
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 Brennan, Lawrence A. Notes on the Distribution of Amphibia and Reptilia of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 114pp.
1935 Burt, Charles E. Further records of the ecology and distribution of amphibians and reptiles in the middle west. American Midland Naturalist 16(3):311-366
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
1937 Brennan, Lawrence A. A study of the habitat of reptiles and amphibians of Ellis County, Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 40():341-347
1937 Grant, Chapman. Herpetological notes from Central Kansas. American Midland Naturalist 18(3):370-372
1940 Brumwell, Malcolm J. Notes on the courtship of the turtle, Terrapene ornata. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 43():391-392
1944 Marr, John C. Notes on amphibians and reptiles from the central United States. American Midland Naturalist 32(2):478-490
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
1960 Legler, John M. Natural history of the ornate box turtle, Terrepene ornata ornata Agassiz University of Kansas Publications Museum of Natural History 11(10):527-669
1962 Gish, Charles D. The Herpetofauna of Ellis County, Kansas. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 34pp.
1965 Fitch, Alice V. Sensory cues in the feeding of the Ornate Box Turtle. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 68(4):522-532
1970 Metcalf, Edna L., and Artie L. Metcalf. Observations on ornate box turtles (Terrapene ornata ornata Agassiz). Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 73(1):96-117
1970 Webb, Robert G. Reptiles of Oklahoma. Stovall Museum, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. 370pp.
1975 Rundquist, Eric M. First KHS field trip yields three county records. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (7):1-3
1976 Caldwell, Janalee P. and Gregory. Glass. Vertebrates of the Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Pages 62-76 in Preliminary inventory of the biota of Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Report No. 5. State Biological Survey of Kansas, Lawrence. pp.
1977 Knight, James L. and Joseph T. Collins. The amphibians and reptiles of Cheyenne County, Kansas, Report Number 15. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 19pp.
1978 Ward, Joseph P. Terrapene ornata. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (217):1-4
1979 Metcalf, Edna and Artie L. Metcalf. Mortality in hibernating Ornate Box Turtles, Terrapene ornata. Herpetologica 35(1):93-96
1980 Clarke, Robert F. Herptiles and fishes of the western Arkansas River in Kansas. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 55pp.
1982 Fitch, Henry S. Resources of a snake community in prairie-woodland habitat of northeastern Kansas. Pages 83-97 in Herpetological communities: A symposium of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles and the Herpetologists League, August 1977.  Wildlife Research Reports 12. 239 pp. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D. C. pp.
1986 Simmons, John E. The Kansas state reptile. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (64):42926
1987 Black, Jeffrey H. Do Ornate Box Turtles prey on birds? Bulletin of the Maryland Herpetological Society 23(3):130-132
1987 Simmons, John E. To remember our state reptile. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (67):12
1989 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 1988. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (75):15-18
1991 Collins, Joseph T. and Suzanne L. Collins. Reptiles and Amphibians of the Cimarron National Grasslands, Morton County, Kansas. U. S. Forest Service, Elkhart, Kansas. 60pp.
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.
1992 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS annual field trip to Sheridan County State Lake. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (90):3
1994 Ernst, C. H., R. W. Barbour, and J. E. Lovich Turtles of the United States and Canada Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., USA. pp.
1996 Miller, Larry L. Many amphibian and reptile species identified during KHS 1996 fall field trip to Wabaunsee County. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (106):2-3
1996 Miller, Larry L. Third graders conduct amphibian and reptile field study. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (106):15
1999 Taggart, Travis W. Cherokee County fall 1999 herp count. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (117):6
2000 Taggart, Travis W. KHS spring field trip sets record for attendance. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (120):5-5
2000 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2000 fall field trip. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (122):6-8
2001 Kazmaier, Richard T. and Robert J. Robel. Scute anomalies of Ornate Box Turtles in Kansas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 104(3-4):178-182
2001 Kretzer, Justin E. and Jack F. Cully, Jr. Effects of Blacktailed Prairie Dogs on reptiles and amphibians in Kansas shortgrass prairie. Southwestern Naturalist 46(2):171-177
2001 Schmidt, Curtis J. The amphibians, turtles, and reptiles of the Smoky Valley Ranch, Logan County, Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):9-11
2001 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS spring field trip west. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (125):10
2001 Taggart, Travis W. The KHS 2001 spring field trip: A rainy rendezvous. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):12-14
2002 Miller, Larry L. Osage County herp count II. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (4):15
2002 Miller, Larry L. Sumner County herp count. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (4):15
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
2002 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2002 fall field Trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (4):11-13
2002 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the spring 2002 KHS field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (3):6-7
2003 Freeman, Craig C. A natural areas inventory of the Ft. Leavenworth Military Reservation, Leavenworth County, Kansas. II. Open-file Report No. 117. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence, Kansas. 199pp.
2003 Taggart, Travis W. Logan County herp count. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (7):8
2004 Delisle, Jennifer M. and William H. Busby Biological inventory for vertebrates at Fort Larned National Historic Site of the southern plains network. Natural Heritage Inventory, Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 61pp.
2004 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2004 fall feld trip . Journal of Kansas Herpetology (12):15-16
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. Addendum report to biological inventory of the sandsage prairie near Holcomb, Kansas. Sunflower Electric Cooperative, Hays, Kansas. 31pp.
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.
2007 Taggart, Travis W. A biological inventory of the Sunflower Electric Site near Holcomb, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology 23():11-16
2007 Taggart, Travis W., Joseph T. Collins, and Curtis J. Schmidt. Estimates of amphibian, reptile, and turtle mortality if Phostoxin is applied to 10,000 acres of prairie dog burrows in Logan County, Kansas. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. 5pp.
2008 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2008 spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (25):2-3
2010 Miller, Larry L. 2010 Investigation of the Checkered Garter Snake in Kansas with notes on other Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles encountered. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt, Kansas. 31pp.
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
2015 Brown, Kasandra A. Occupancy Modeling Of Herpetofauna And Grassland Nesting Birds At Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 72pp.
2016 Pittman, Galen L., Henry S. Fitch, and W. Dean Kettle Vertebrate animals on the Fitch Natural History Reservation (1948-2002) Kansas Biological Survey Report Number 188, Lawrence. 48pp.
2019 Riedle, Daren. Conservation conversations: Coming at you like a herd of turtles. Kansas Wildlife and Parks Magazine July/August():15
Account Last Updated:
7/7/2018 10:26:06 PM


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