Box Turtle Lifespan: Curious Reptile Facts Answered For Kids!

Joan Agie
Oct 20, 2023 By Joan Agie
Originally Published on Nov 04, 2021
learn facts about pet turtles
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.9 Min

Box turtles are reptiles recognized for their brown upper shell and long life.

Pet turtles also have the ability to hide inside their shell at any time of danger. Box turtles are exceptional turtles that prefer living on moist woodlands, whereas the rest of them mainly prefer aquatic life.

Reptiles are cold-blooded animals; they have rough skin that is covered with plates or scales. Box turtles also belong to the reptile group, along with snakes, lizards, crocodiles, etc. At an average rate, box turtle lifespan is usually 50 years, but it may increase or decrease according to the conditions they are living in.

Captive-bred turtles are likely to live longer because of the controlled habitat. It is believed that a box turtle will thrive when cared for by someone rather than living in the wild. Box turtles live for more than 100 years if monitored properly. The lifespan of a box turtle is highly affected by its diet, environmental conditions, and health issues, as well as other factors.

After reading all about how long the males and females of this species live, be sure to read our Box Turtle Facts and all about budgie lifespan.

What is the lifespan of a box turtle?

Box turtles are named so because of their ability to completely withdraw their head, hands, and legs inside their shell at the time of need, making them look like a box. They belong to the terrapene genus. Box turtles live between 20 and 80 years, influenced by the habitat they are living in, their diet, surroundings, and health conditions. A box turtle can be seen in captivity as well as in the wild, which affects their lifespan and life cycle too.

The average age of a box turtle to live is 50 years. Most of the eggs die soon after egg laying and do not even reach the hatching stage. Turtles' lifespan may vary from 20 years to more than 80 years based on the factors in their favor. The lifespan of turtles is extremely influenced by a proper diet; if a sufficient and complete diet is not received, they might fall ill and may not survive. They need to be disease-free to stay fit so make sure to take them to the veterinarian for checkups.

Many diseases like bacterial or fungal infection, respiratory disorder, and organ failure might affect the survival rate of a box turtle. Health conditions like dehydration and vitamin A deficiency can also harm the life of the turtle. It is observed that turtles survive in captivity better than in the wild because of the circumstances provided to them, but there are some cases of turtles reaching more than 100 years when living in the wild.

There are several varieties of box turtles whose life span varies from each other. A few varieties are mentioned below, along with their average lifespan:

Desert Box Turtle: From 10 years to 50 years.

Eastern Box Turtle: Over 100 years in captivity.

Ornate Box Turtle: About 32 to 37 years.

Florida Box Turtle: Over 50 years in captivity.

Yucatan Box Turtle: More than 100 years in the wild.

What is the average lifespan of the five-toed American box turtle?

The five toed American box turtle is also known as the eastern box turtle, and belongs to the subspecies of Terrapene Carolina. The eastern box turtles have many distinguishing characters, such as the carapace that is brown or black with yellow spots. There is a difference in the shape of the plastron of males and females. The male plastron is concave, while the female plastron is flat. The life span of these subspecies also varies with their living circumstances but the male and females of each do not have drastic differences in their life expectancy. .

Eastern box turtles generally have one clutch per year, which includes two to eight eggs. They make their nests deep in the soil to keep the eggs safe. The incubation period for eggs usually lasts for three months. Female eastern box turtles take 5-10 years to become ready to breed. When a turtle lays eggs, it buries them into the soil or sand and leaves the nest. After hatching, the babies dig back to the surface and are on their own from then onwards. They are extremely exposed to predation as they are small and weak and have to fight for their survival. A baby eastern box turtle (terrapene Carolina) will reach maturity about 10 to 20 years and can live for over 100 years.

Five toed American box turtles are native to the eastern United States, but they are seen in other areas too because people who adopt them release them in the wild when they don't want them anymore, which might affect their lifespan because they are not habitual to such an environment and this might be harmful to them. The average lifespan of several varieties of turtles ranges from 20 years to 80 years, and some also exceed 100 years. The difference is vast, it is kind of impossible to count the years of their life unless the turtle is born in front of your eyes. Many turtles are found with markings under their body.

It is not that simple to calculate a turtle's age. There are a few methods such as counting the rings from the shell, checking the size of the turtle, and measuring it with a bone examination. By the counting the ring method, you cannot tell the exact age of the turtle, but you can estimate a number. With this method, you have to select a scute on the shell of the turtle and count the number of rings present within that scute. There are plenty of scutes present on the shell of the turtle. After counting the rings, divide them by two. The resulting number is the nearest age of your turtle.

The size checking method is not that reliable because it doesn't apply to the fully-grown turtle’s body. For this method, you have to measure your turtle from tip to tail and then compare it with the standardized size chart and estimate the age according to the subspecies you have matched within the chart. The bone measurement method is used by scientists and applies only to subspecies of turtles and water species. The above-mentioned methods will help you evaluate the approximate age of your turtle.

The maximum age of a turtle mentioned in publicized records is around 187 years old, estimated by the International Union of Conservation of Nature. This means that that particular turtle has lived through world wars, 39 US presidents, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Its name is Jonathan. There is no proof of any turtle living up to 1000 years, so it is really hard to say whether a turtle can live up to 1000 years or not.

read about  the lifespan of a box turtle

What is the box turtle lifespan in captivity?

For the better survival of box turtles and to increase the lifespan of turtles, they should be provided with optimum conditions. We should provide them with a clean space, good food, and proper light as UV B rays are essential for them. Better hygiene and surroundings can help them rejuvenate. Turtles can be sensitive to sudden changes in their diet and environment which can lead to several diseases and deteriorating health conditions which might eventually kill them.

The lifespan of turtles in captivity can be higher than in the wild if good care is taken by the owner. Many turtles can live more than 100 years when they are provided with proper accommodation. Sunlight is essential for their survival, especially UV B rays, to produce vitamin D3 for calcium making, for the development of their shells, and for absorption of other vitamins and minerals. Living in harmful conditions such as increased chlorine and fungus content in their surroundings can either cause diseases or kill them.

In captivity, there is no fight for survival as there are no predators. They are given proper care, a consistent diet, quality food, and regular health checkups. These actions can help in their development, enhancing growth, and increasing their lifespan. Turtles in the wild live for a long time, but when they are raised in a secured environment, they survive much longer, which is not only beneficial for them but also for nature.

Can I keep a box turtle I found?

If you want to find baby box turtles, you should look under tree logs or leaf litter in a warm area as these creatures hide in these places to remain protected from the sun.

Saving wildlife or any organism is a wholesome thing, but most wild animals are not able to survive or adapt to a secured, restricted environment which might actually kill them. You can keep a box turtle if you find it injured to save its life but release it back into the wild after it has recovered because once adapted to a different environment, you might actually harm its life.

Raising a turtle, especially a wild turtle, can be very difficult because it might be hard for them to adjust to a new environment and it might cause you some trouble too. Wild box turtles may carry unwanted diseases and germs themselves, which can not only harm it but you too. For medical follow-ups, visit the veterinarian to make sure the turtle is healthy.

Turtles have their range and can find their home; by picking them up, we might actually cause problems in them being able to find their way home. It is not legal to pet a wild animal in your home without permission, and you might get into trouble for keeping a turtle even if you were helping an injured or abandoned turtle.

A box turtle, like other reptiles, tends to hibernate in the winter and they do brumation to survive the extremely cold temperature in the absence of light and food scarcity. Dislocating them from where you found them may cause them discomfort. Wild box turtles know how to live in harsh conditions, so if there is no physical injury, and they are healthy, let them be where you found them. The ornate box turtle is completely terrestrial and lives only on the land. They have long, sharp claws, which they use to dig deep soil burrows to avoid high-temperature conditions.

Ornate box turtles have a lifespan of about 32 to 37 years. A few cases of turtles that have lived up to 50 years have been recorded too. The turtles who are raised in captive conditions usually have a lifespan as long as the wild ones but it is listed as threatened in six Midwestern states (Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Kansas).

Ornate box turtles are common pets in Iowa, and it is illegal to capture or kill them there. You can legally adopt or buy them from a licensed pet shop. Like eastern box turtles, they are also very small in size, and so many predators like snakes, dogs, cats, crows, and so on might prey on them, including adult box turtles. Many human activities are also doing constant harm to the ornate box turtle, such as agriculture, overexploitation of resources, and development. Due to an increase in agricultural activities, the land is reduced for the terrestrial animals, and overexploitation of resources is causing pollution, which leads to further climate change increasing temperature, and the ornate box turtle is sensitive to the high temperature.

People are abandoning their pets, making them prey for other organisms, thus increasing the risk of threat and endangerment. Habitat loss is the biggest problem for their survival as there is a loss of food and shelter.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Box Turtle Lifespan: Curious Reptile Facts Answered For Kids! then why not take a look at Cobweb Vs Spider Web: Curious Webby Difference Facts For Kids, or Chicken Egg Development: The Curious Facts On Egg Simplified For Kids.

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Written by Joan Agie

Bachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

Joan Agie picture

Joan AgieBachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.

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