When I was growing up, a trip to the woods especially after a rain would often result in seeing one or more American Box Turtles. On many occasions, I picked up one or more and kept them as a pet. Unfortunately, this is not a common event any more. The American Box Turtle has been rare in many of these areas with steady decline the last fifty years. There are many reasons for the decline of this popular reptile.
Almost everyone is familiar with highly recognized and lovable harmless creatures. I have stopped on many occasions and seen others do the same to move a turtle off a road to keep it from getting crushed by an unsuspecting vehicle. Unfortunately, many of us may have unwittingly led to the American Box Turtle’s decline with our lack of knowledge about them. How can we help the American Box Turtle survive so our children and grandchildren can still occasionally see them in their natural habitat?
Many American Box Turtle’s were captured in the wild and shipped internationally for the pet trade. Thousands of turtles were shipped in the 1990’s. It was such an issue that American Box Turtle’s are protected by the Cites Treaty in 1994 from international trade. To take this one step further, some states have laws against collecting box turtles.
Habitat destruction has contributed to the decline in the turtle population also. Most turtles do not migrate to new areas when their habitat is destroyed. This also has resulted in more predators such as raccoons in their habitat. Their home range is small. If a box turtle lives to 100 years old, it will normally travel the area of a football field.
Many American Box Turtle’s unfortunately met their death because of increased roads. The increased traffic and new roads being built has resulted in a huge increase of road kills. Turtles have a strong homing instinct and many are killed trying to return to the old home territory.
Many people take a turtle out of the wild and keep it as a pet for a short time. They released the turtle back into the wild. Many of these turtles are more likely to harbor disease and spread it to the wild population.
Here are some ways that we can help the American Box Turtle make a comeback.
- Don’t purchase a Box Turtle
- If have a turtle don’t release to the wild. You can give it to a turtle recovery shelter or rescue.
- Don’t remove them form the wild
- If you remove a turtle on the roadway, move it out of harm’s way, the direction the turtle was going. If you turn it around, it will go right back into harm’s way.
- Educate others on how to preserve American Box Turtle’s for future generations.
- There is still plenty of time to make a difference to the overall survival of the American Box Turtle. They are slow to reproduce and a female must be 12 years old before she is able to lay fertile eggs. Every turtle loss is a big blow to that particular habitat.