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Ornate Box Turtle

Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo

Did You Know?

  • Ornate box turtles are one of only two terrestrial turtle species that are native to the Great Plains states.
  • They are protected in several states, including Illinois, due to declining numbers resulting from the fragmentation and loss of the prairies where they live. Regional experts, including ones at Lincoln Park Zoo, have initiated head-start programs to help juveniles grow for a year before they go out into the wild.
  • In the winter, these turtles hibernate in animal burrows underground.

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Why aren’t animals visible at all times? To promote positive animal welfare, we provide animals with choices. They can choose to spend time in areas that are out of public view.


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Scientific Name: Terrapene ornate

Class: Reptiles

Diet: Insects, snails, earthworms, eggs, carrion, berries

Range: Midwestern United States from Wisconsin to Arizona

Endangered Status: Near Threatened

More Information

Ornate box turtles have a high-domed shell, bright yellow lines on their carapace (top shell) scutes, and non-webbed hind feet. Their shell, which can grow to 5 inches in length, is hinged at both ends, allowing them to completely close their shell. Males have red eyes, while the eyes of females are brown or yellow.

Mating may occur in the spring or fall. Females may lay up to six eggs at a time in June or July, and the young will hatch by September.

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