Florida Box Turtle
(Click to zoom)
I was tickled to find a Florida box turtle, which is a subspecies of the eastern box turtle, in my front yard last week. Florida box turtles tend to have more colorful markings than some of their northern counterparts, as this beauty does. I think it looks like someone painted flowers on his shell. Or maybe they look like little suns, as drawn by a kindergarten artist. What do you think?
I think this one is a male, but will have to double check next time I catch him. I checked online for all the ways to tell the difference, and found that besides the shape of the carapace (top of the shell) and plastron (bottom of the shell), there is a difference in eye color, and tail size and width.
Because he has a healed injury to his shell, I decided to move him into my fenced in backyard, where he can graze among the flower beds. I may regret this later, but I don’t think one turtle can do anywhere near the damage the squirrels do daily, so I’m taking my chances. Besides, it’s just so cute. You can see the old injury on the front edge of his shell, just below his head in this picture. (Click to see it full size).
He seems to be making himself at home out there. Of course, Potter and Maks found him yesterday and again today. He pulls inside and shuts his shell down completely, and they bark and poke him with their noses, jumping back instantly as though his shell is red hot. I don’t think they can hurt him, but I still bring them in every time I see them barking at him. For his part, as soon as he’s sure they are gone, he comes out and hightails it at a surprisingly high rate of speed…for a turtle, anyway.
I really like this little guy, and hope he will be okay in my backyard. I think he’s fairly young, but I will be doing some more research on him. And I don’t want him to be lonely out there. May have to look for a companion for him. Don’t want him to become lovesick and sad.