The Box Turtle Connection
Help! I found a Box Turtle! Now what?
A few important things after finding a box turtle.
1. Are you sure it’s a box turtle?
A. Does it look similar to these? Patterns may vary, but they should have clawed feet (not as webbed as aquatic turtles), and should be able to close up in their shell, even if they aren’t doing so when you find them.
2. Where did you find it?
A. On a road – If the turtle is not injured, simply place it on the side of the road where it was headed.
B. In a parking lot – If the turtle is not injured, simply place it on the side of the parking lot where it was headed. If not headed in a specific direction, place it in an area (with grass or brush) where it can escape from cars and the heat.
C. In my yard – Great! You can help with our citizen science project.
D. In a pond – Box turtles are terrestrial (land-dwelling) animals. If found in a pond, they likely need help getting out since they are not as adept at swimming as our aquatic turtles. They occasionally stay cool by sitting in stream beds in the summer.
E. Somewhere else – Where was it?
*Please know that it is very important not to relocate any wildlife. Many animals have very specific home ranges, and if moved from these locations will likely be unable to find resources and can die. Read more at the bottom of the page.
3. Does it appear to be healthy?
A. Any broken bones or damaged shell?
B. Discharge from ears or nose?
D. If there are any health problems, call NCSU’s Turtle Team at (919) 397-9675 or our WildNet hotline at 919-572-9453 for further instructions.
E. It’s a baby! Baby box turtles don’t rely on their parents to care for them. They are completely independent when born and are able to find food and shelter all by themselves. If you found one, enjoy the cuteness and then return it exactly where you found it.
F. No health problems. Please return the turtle exactly where you found it.
With any box turtle you find, make sure you are taking photos for our Turtle Trekker program!
4. Where is it now?
A. The best place for a box turtle is in the wild! If the turtle is not injured, place it back where you found it (or the nearest safest place). Box turtles have a very specific place they live, called a home range. They know where all the food, water, shelter, and other turtles are in their home range. They also have a strong homing sense. If you remove them from this area, they will spend the rest of their life trying to return and are likely to get hit by a car or starve to death. Box turtle populations are also declining, and to prevent these beautiful creatures from becoming endangered they need to stay in the wild. Turning them into pets only brings them closer to endangerment and possible extinction.
An easy way to interact with the turtle you find is to take photos, as described on the Turtle Trekker page, and submit them to our box turtle database.