Box Turtles

Organisms / Vertebrates / Reptiles

A Frightened Box Turtle

In the coastal prairie ecosystem, animals were few and far between.  I had almost given up hope of observing anything but ants, when a box turtle was spotted making its way through the pickelweed and glasswort plants.  When it was picked up so pictures could be taken, its head and legs remained out of its shell for a few minutes, but it must have become frightened or apprehensive because of the 15 bodies surrounding it, for it soon disappeared into its shell.
    When it was placed back on the ground for observation of its behavior, it decided to remain in the safety of its boxlike shell for the next half hour.  I wrote about many other things while I was watching the box turtle for any sign of movement.  During this time, another turtle was spotted, but escaped capture by moving quickly away.  I thought that maybe the turtle I was watching had somehow warned its friends about the scary humans trying to catch it and take pictures of it!
    I began to feel after a while that I should have watched the ants after all.  However, I realized that this is part of a turtle's behavior.  Once the turtle is startled enough, it is quite content to sit still in its "home" for a long time, making sure everything is safe before it ventures out again.  Unfortunately, we had to move on to the next ecosystem before the box turtle came out of its shell.
    An interesting further experiment could be to catch box turtles again and time them to see how long it is before they come out of their shell.  One could also compare the length of time they were held or startled to the time they remained in their shell.