Ornate Box Turtle: Caring Of Pet Turtle

An Ornate box turtle is an interesting and unique pet. They make up good pets as they do not require much care and handling. Turtles are quite shy and they take time to get familiar with their surroundings. If you are thinking of bringing this box turtle home. In this article, you will get to know about this species, behavior, temperament, food requirements, and other traits. Read the article till the end to know all the important information about the ornate box turtle. 

Ornate Box Turtle

The ornate box turtle is one of the two types of Terrestrial turtles that are found near the United States. The Scientific name of this box turtle is ‘Terrapene ornata ornata’. Both male and female turtles look very similar and they have a wide array of colors ranging from yellow to gray-black brown shades. 

In recent studies and research, it has been found that the ornate box turtle endangered is near to the ‘threatened’. Many states have even declared it as ‘imperiled’ like Dakota. 

These turtles require huge space as they love to explore and in captivity, they are prone to stress. There are many other intrinsic and extrinsic threats to these turtles which affect their survival. 

Ornate Box Turtle Habitat

The ornate box turtle range is the grasslands of the United States and Northern Mexico. 

The turtles like to roam around and love burrowing themselves in the soft sand when it is hot during the day hours. 

They are ectothermic species which means that they cannot regulate their own body temperature. The western ornate box turtle has the habit of living in high temperatures so they dig the soil to keep their body cool. 

These turtles are best to keep outdoors as they have a strong instinct of digging and like to climb and explore. 

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Ornate Box Turtle Size

The Ornate box turtles are the smallest species of the northern American box turtles. They reach their adult size after 8 to 10 years that is approximately between 4 to 5 inches or 10 to 13 cm. 

For the first two years when they are born their shells are soft and they are not able to get inside it completely. 

Later on, the shells develop the lower part called plastron which lets the turtle retract completely inside the shell. 

Ornate Box Turtle Lifespan

The maximum reported lifespan of these turtles is between 32 to 37 years. The longevity of their life depends on the food, habitat, care, and environment in which they live. 

The ornate box turtle baby is very sensitive and has soft shells which make them prone to the attacks of birds like crows, ravens, and raptors.

Most of the turtles die before 2 years of their birth. It has also been seen that female turtles have more chances of survival than male turtles due to the temperature and other favorable aspects. 

Ornate Box Turtle Diet

The Ornate box turtles are omnivores and require different varieties of food to fulfill their nutritional requirements. The ornate box turtle food list includes the following

Live food

  • Crickets
  • Waxworms
  • Earthworms
  • pinky mice
  • Grasshoppers
  • Beetles, etc.


  • Mushrooms
  • Berries
  • mustard greens
  • Dandelion greens, etc.

Canned Turtle Food

  • You can also buy canned turtle food available in the supermarkets or stores but it is better to feed your turtle fresh vegetables and food. 

For the good health of turtles, you should make sure that they get high-quality vitamins and food rich in vitamin A and beta carotene. 

Ornate Box Turtle Care 

The box turtles are easy to take care of but there are some important things that you need to pay attention to that I have mentioned below. 

  • The turtles are disposed of to the chances of having Vitamin A deficiency so you must take care of their diet and feed them nutritious food.
  • These pets are prone to get stressed if they don’t like their surroundings or are not comfortable in them. You should give time to your pet turtle to adapt and get comfortable in its surrounding. You must try to keep them outdoors in large vacant spaces. 
  • They are also susceptible to respiratory infections and some of the early symptoms of it are wheezing and mucus around the mouth and nostrils.
  • You must keep them clean as poor hygiene might lead to bacterial and fungal infections and even to the problem of shell rot. 

Ornate Box Turtle Facts

Below I have listed some interesting facts and information about the box turtle that you might like to know. 

  • The trinomial or the scientific name of this turtle is ‘Terrapene ornata ornata’. 
  • These turtles are generally found in the areas of South Dakota, eastern Wyoming, Missouri, New Mexico, Illinois, and Wisconsin, etc. 
  • They can grow up to 5 to 7 inches in length and have a life expectancy of 32 to 37 years. 
  • The best temperature for these turtles during the day is between 80 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit and at night it is about 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • The average humidity level that is preferred for them is between 40 to 50 percent. 
  • Other box turtle types are the eastern box turtle, the three-toed box turtle, and the gulf coast box turtle. 
  • The ornate box turtle price is estimated between $200 to $350. You can get it from either a pet shop or an online pet store.  


Are Ornate Box Turtles Good Pets?

Yes, the box turtles are good pets and one of the most popular species of turtles to be kept as pets. They are easy to find but they need proper housing and have complex dietary needs.

How Long Do Ornate Box Turtles Live?

The lifespan of these turtles is different in the wild and captivity. They can live up to 32 to 37 years in captivity and in the wild, they have an average lifespan of 25 years.

What Does An Ornate Box Turtle Eat?

The box turtle eats a wide variety of food items like earthworms, grasshoppers, pinky mice, beetles, crickets, mushrooms, crickets, caterpillars,  mustard green, other vegetables, and berries, etc.

Why Is The Ornate Box Turtle Endangered?

The box turtles are endangered as humans have taken up a large part of their natural habitats by building up roads, for agriculture and development. The main reason for the box turtles being endangered is the loss of their natural habitat.

How Do I Keep My Box Turtle Happy?

Always have fresh water available for your turtles, and change it daily to prevent algae or bacterial buildup. Use a wide shallow paint pan or pool that the turtle can get in and out of easily. Box turtles like to soak themselves and drink. A depth of 2–3 inches will be good for most adults, much lower for hatchlings.

Do Turtles Like Their Shell Rubbed?

In fact, turtles do have nerve endings in their shells and a scratch seems to feel good. Our big sea turtles are no exception! So the next time you visit and you see one of the turtles shimmying their shell under a finger of coral, now you’ll know they’re just enjoying a good back scratch.

Is It OK To Pick Up A Box Turtle?

If you see a box turtle trying to cross a busy road, you can pick it up and move it to the other side of the road in the direction it was facing. The turtle cannot be kept or moved to any other location.


The ornate box turtle is one of the most popular species of turtles. They are also the state reptile of Kansas. The main origin of these turtles can be traced to the plains of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico. The turtles are unique and silent pets but they do require proper care and habitat. They love to explore and dig their heads in the soil so you must keep them in the outdoor enclosures. Before bringing this box turtle home you must know their dietary requirements and care about which I have mentioned above. I am sure that after reading the article you will get more knowledge and information on the ornate box turtle.  

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