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Eastern Box Turtle: A Dwindling Treasure

The Eastern Box Turtle is southeastern Pennsylvania's most common land-dwelling turtle. A resident of moist deciduous forests, Eastern Box Turtles are omnivores that will feed on berries, flowers, grasses, snails, and worms. They will even eat carrion or birds that are in a nest or immobile! Despite their opportunistic diet, the Eastern Box Turtle has seen an alarming decline in our area over the last few years.

The Eastern Box Turtle's population has been in decline due to human causes:

1. Habitat loss - Their habitat has been removed and replaced with development such as houses, stores, and roads. A necessary step for human life, but cutting down forests drives the turtles out of their habitat and forces them to go exploring to find a new place to live.

2. Habitat fragmentation - Fragmentation, or being broken apart, occurs when roads are put through or between forests. This fragmentation causes habitats to be separated and smaller, which forces Eastern Box Turtles to have to walk across busy roads and highways to find new places to live. Turtles being generally slow, this puts turtles into dangerous situations!

3. Automobile strikes - When turtles cross roads, they are at a high risk of being run over by cars. Oftentimes, they are hit by cars when they cross roads.

4. Being collected as pets - People find them in the wild and collect them as pets. It may be fun to have a pet, but it is illegal in some states to collect wild animals such as the Eastern Box Turtle as pets!

What can you do to help with the conservation of Eastern Box Turtles?

If you see a turtle crossing the road, have an adult pull off to a safe spot on the side of the road and move the turtle to the other side of the road that it's facing. If you see an Eastern Box Turtle in an unsafe spot off a roadside, move the turtle to a more suitable habitat within walking distance in the direction that it was traveling. Also, if you find an Eastern Box Turtle in the wild, take pictures and mental snapshots, but do not take the turtle with you! Leave Eastern Box Turtles where they belong in the wild so they can live a happy life and produce more turtles. What can one do about habitat loss and habitat fragmentation? Pay attention to local conservation causes and push to conserve open space! Conserving open space not only provides humans a place to connect with nature, but it provides habitat for all animals, not just turtles!

If you are lucky enough, you can see Eastern Box Turtles around BSES! If you do see any, please photograph and send to me so I can keep track of how many turtles and where turtles are being found:

A special thank you to the Markowitz family for allowing me to share these photos with you! They observed this turtle near the Kindergarten entrance, and they made the right choice by leaving it in the wild. Also, they took some super cool photos of the turtle!

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