Help Eastern Box Turtles
Support Wildlife

8 Easy Ways to Help Wild Eastern Box Turtles

Whether you live in Eastern Box Turtle territory or are planning a vacation, there are several ways we can support these amazing animals through food, habitat and keeping them safe. You can find Eastern Box turtles in woodlands, in fields, sometimes marshy areas, streams and lakes.

When vacationing at Raystown Lake, Pennsylvania; we all made sure we didn’t leave any trash out of respect of keeping the lake as clean as it is. I did find a box turtle on the trail down to the lake.

Table of Contents

Why is it important to help wild Eastern box turtles?

Native turtles contribute to the health of our environment. They eat slugs, caterpillars, spiders, worms and crickets. In fact, 50% of their nutritional needs includes protein. They are omnivores so they do like fruits and vegetables. They are too small to be a nuisance to your fruit and vegetable garden if you have raised beds.

These wild black raspberries were on the edge of the wooded area of my property. I made sure to keep them healthy. They were a great food source to me and wild animals including turtles.

Box turtles are nice neighbors to have. Consider yourself lucky to find an Eastern Box Turtle in or near your yard. That means “me casa su casa” or in other words, your home is also their home. The Eastern Box Turtle is a home body just like many of us. They have their own version of a GPS to find food and their same nesting grounds when it’s time to lay eggs.

Overripe raspberries that fall from the plant are a nice treat for the Eastern Box turtle.

1. Plant fruit plants especially native ones

Certain berries are healthy for the Eastern Box turtles to eat but they don’t need to eat a lot of them. Some of the safest ones you can grow in your yard are strawberries, raspberries, black berries, huckleberries, gooseberries and Marion berries. They also eat pill bugs, snails and slugs.

If you have a woodland edge on your property, you can grow Alpine strawberries for the box turtles to eat. They are small, not invasive and Alpine strawberries are perennials. I wrote a blog post all about growing Alpine strawberries if you are interested in learning more.

Easiest way to help wild Eastern Box Turtles is to leave them alone.
During the hot summer days, box turtles find refuge in the shade of the forest burrowing under leaves.

2. Encourage their natural habitat

During hibernation, a box turtle will dig into the mud, leaves and loose soil to protect themselves from being exposed to the winter weather. They spend active time moving around in the mornings and evenings when it isn’t as hot in the summer.

Many communities offer leaf collection services but that doesn’t mean you have to participate unless you have strict HOA guidelines. If you know you have box turtles in your community, create a place where you can add leaf little and logs to create a safe haven for Eastern box turtles to hibernate.

3. Keep your eyes on the road

An adult box turtle’s shell can possibly offer enough protection to survive getting hit by a car but it also depends on the impact and the injury sustained after being hit. When driving through roads with wooded areas, near lakes and marshes, stay alert for turtles especially in the early spring when they travel to lay their eggs. Drive at a speed you easily can slow down and pull over.

Box turtles will go to the same place to lay their eggs. In my area, I see them in April walking across the roads. Please don’t relocate turtles away from the area you found it or keep it as a pet. Their survival depends on them staying close to their home. The best thing is to just leave them alone.

On the other hand, I also don’t assume drivers will notice them and avoid hitting turtles slowly crossing the road. If the turtle was in immediate danger of many cars driving on that stretch of road, I will pull over my car to a safe space, pick up the turtle and walk a few feet in the direction the turtle was headed then gently place them in the grass. If you put them on the side they started, the turtle’s strong GPS sense of direction will cause them to turn around and cross the road again.

Box turtles can carry Salmonella but I personally haven’t gotten sick by one. I always have a bottle of hand sanitizer in my car so I will use that.

Encourage your township to post metal signs in areas where turtles are often seen crossing the road.

See the damaged part of this eastern box turtle’s shell? That type of injury could have been sustained from a car or lawn mower.

4. Mow your grass mid-day and stay vigilant

Turtles can get serious injuries from lawn mowers and tractors. You can take a walk around your property before you mow to see if any or just be on the look out for them as you mow. Turtles don’t stay in one place for more than a day so leave it alone and it will disappear by the time you check again.

Remember, box turtles are active in the early morning and dusk so plan to mow your lawn in the heat of the day when they are least likely to be out in the sun.

What should I do if I see an injured turtle?

Before this happens, do some research to find out a wild animal rescue or even better a turtle rescue in your area. Even if you go on vacation, do a quick Google search of rescues in that area and add it to your contact list on your phone. You’ll be prepared and save precious time if you encounter an injured turtle.

Check out this true story of a turtle rescue and the people who brought it to the rescue were able to help release it back into the wild after the turtle healed.

5. Don’t use pesticides

Think twice before reaching for that bottle of weed killer. Box turtles are low to the ground and the risk of injury is really high if they walk on lawns that are treated with pesticides. This includes using chemicals to get rid of insects. You just never know when and where box turtles will be crossing your lawn.

6. Keep them wild especially when you’re on vacation

Some people think they are so adorable and want to keep them. Kids love turtles and will beg to have it as a pet. No matter how much they plead, use it as a teachable moment to explain why it’s so important to the turtle to stay in it’s home.

Compared to a dog or cat, turtles aren’t the most fun pets for kids. Turtles live a very long time under the best conditions and most kids will outgrow their interest long before the turtle get old. Then you’re stuck with either taking care of it or figuring out what to do with it.

7. Consider removing or not planting toxic plants in your garden

Don’t assume that animals will know the difference between a non-toxic plant versus one that is poisonous. Remember that includes parts of the plant like the leaves, seeds or berries that may fall to the ground where a box turtle has access to it. Here’s a list of plants you will want to avoid to protect box turtles.

8. Protect turtles from your pets

Curious dogs and cats can physically injure a turtle. Make sure you know where your dog is and what it is doing when it is outside. Keep cats indoors where they will be safer anyway. Turtles can be disfigured and suffer unnecessary injuries from encounters with pets.

Summary

Box turtles have an important place in our backyard. We benefit from them eating pests like slugs and caterpillars. You don’t have to have a large backyard to make a difference in their lives. If you happen to be vacationing in areas where there are Eastern box turtles, don’t litter, watch the road for turtles crossing and keep an eye on your pets.

If you’re like me and have some land in turtle habitat, plant native beneficial plants, don’t use pesticides, be careful when mowing the lawn and remove toxic plants. If you do see a turtle that is injured, keep a local wildlife rescue’s number in your phone contact list. These are pretty easy things we can do that can make a huge difference in the lives of box turtles.