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Ornate Box Turtle

Ornate Box TurtleIn observance of the 125th anniversary of Kansas statehood, a sixth-grade class in Caldwell decided to nominate the ornate box turtle as the state reptile. On April 14, 1986, their lobbying campaign ended with Governor John Carlin signing the bill.

The ornate box turtle is found in the prairies of western Kansas to the forests of eastern Kansas. It is the most visibly abundant turtle in Kansas. The ornate box turtle is also a dryland turtle, which means that it spends its life on land and not in the water.

During the 30 to 50 years of its life it spends a large amount of time crawling through fields, across backyards, and in the woods. The yellow stripes on both the upper shell and lower shell of the ornate box turtle identify this species. Males are smaller and have red eyes while females are larger and usually have yellow-brown eyes.

Turtles are similar to reptiles. They are cold-blooded animals; they reproduce by laying eggs out of the water, and they have scales on their body that allow them to live away from the moist areas where amphibians are confined. Young reptiles are miniature versions of their parents and do not need to go through metamorphosis stages to reach adulthood as do amphibians. Examples of reptiles are lizards, snakes, and alligators.

Turtles carry their houses with them. The shell of a turtle is made of the carapace (upper shell) and the plastron (lower shell). A hinge arrangement allows the upper and lower shells to close firmly together for defense against predators. Turtles can move only their head, neck, legs, and tail.

All turtles in Kansas lay their eggs on land, in sand or soft soil. The eggshell keeps the growing turtle from getting too dry. Between two and 50 eggs are laid in each clutch. Deadly enemies of box turtle eggs and hatchlings are raccoons and skunks. Ornate box turtles are omnivorous, meaning that they eat both plants (fruit, flowers, and mushrooms) and animals (grasshoppers, beetles, earthworms, and caterpillars). As with all turtles the ornate box turtle has no teeth. Instead it cuts its food with the sharp edges of its jaws.

Entry: Ornate Box Turtle

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history

Date Created: July 2011

Date Modified: July 2016

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.