21 Turtl-ey Awesome Facts About The Three-Toed Box Turtle

Three-toed box turtle facts are a great read for kids.

Are you interested to learn about different reptile species? If yes, then you should keep on reading to find out about the three-toed box turtle (Terrapene carolina triunguis). It is a North American turtle that is a subspecies of the bigger group of box turtles. The natural habitat of the turtle is in south-central United States. The state of Missouri has also made the three-toed turtle their official state reptile. These are omnivorous animals that mainly feed on other animals. The beautiful upper shell of this turtle is olive-brown with orange lines on the carapace and yellow lines on the plastron. These turtles get their common name from the three toes present on their hind feet. Humidity is loved by these turtles, and it likes to stay in habitats that are near shallow water. One of the best things about these turtles is their long life expectancy, which can go up to 100 years or more. This subspecies breeds during the spring and summer seasons when the temperatures are favorable. The turtle has become a common part of the pet trade, but its population is still going strong.

Keep reading to learn fascinating three-toed turtle facts. Also, check out the articles on the map turtle and the spiny softshell turtle.

Three-Toed Box Turtle

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Earthworms, insects, snails, slugs, quail eggs

What do they eat?


Average litter size?

3-8 eggs

How much do they weigh?

1-2 lb (0.4-0.9 kg)

How long are they?

3.5-5 in (8.8-12.7 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Olive-brown with yellow

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Humans, Raccoons, Skunks, Coyotes, Foxes

What is their conservation status?


Where you'll find them

Woodlands, meadows, shallow water, human households


South-central United States





Scientific Name

Terrapene carolina triunguis





Three-Toed Box Turtle Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a three-toed box turtle?

The three-toed box turtle is a subspecies of the box turtle that is one of the species of hinge-shelled turtles.

What class of animal does a three-toed box turtle belong to?

The three-toed box turtle belongs to the class Reptilia and to the genus Terrapene.

How many three-toed box turtles are there in the world?

Three-toed box turtles are quite common in their native area and are also a common pet for many. Hence, it is quite hard to find the exact number for the total population of the three-toed box turtles.

Where does a three-toed box turtle live?

Three-toed box turtles are native to the United States. They are found in the south and central parts of the country. Their native range is from eastern Texas to the northern half of the Florida Panhandle, and from the states of Missouri and Kansas to Louisiana. The three-toed box turtle is also Missouri's official reptile.

What is a three-toed box turtle's habitat?

The three-toed box turtle is found near shallow water as it is a semi-aquatic animal. The usual habitat for the turtle includes woodlands and meadows. The species is also great at adapting to human households; however, their enclosure needs to be similar to the turtle's native habitat. When kept as pets, the turtles can either be placed in an outside enclosure or an inside enclosure. As they like to burrow, some light substrate should be made available. The enclosure should be big enough for the turtle to roam around easily.

Who do three-toed box turtles live with?

As a subspecies of the box turtle, three-toed box turtles are also solitary in the wild. Even in captivity, these turtles do not need companions. The turtles often only get together during the mating season.

How long does a three-toed box turtle live?

The three-toed box turtle lives for a long time. The average life span for the species is considered to be around 25-35 years. However, in the wild, they have been known to survive to be 100 years old or even more.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding season of the three-toed box turtle is usually during the spring and summer months. It is also when the turtles can mostly be sighted in their wild habitat. Every breeding season, the females lay up to eight eggs. The eggs are laid by the females in a shallow nest dug in the ground with the help of the turtle's back feet. The females leave the eggs covered to incubate on their own with the heat from the ground. It takes approximately three months for the baby turtles to come out. The babies grow up on their own. The sexes of the hatchlings depend on the temperature present in the nest. Lower temperatures give rise to males, while higher temperatures give rise to females. The turtles can take up to 10 years to reach sexual maturity. An interesting thing about this subspecies is that it also interbreeds with the eastern box turtles.

What is their conservation status?

According to the IUCN Red List, three-toed box turtles are Vulnerable.

Three-Toed Box Turtle Fun Facts

What do three-toed box turtles look like?

Three-toed box turtle facts are fascinating.

When you have a look at the three-toed box turtle (Terrapene carolina triunguis), it may not look very different from the average box turtle species. As a subspecies, the main distinctive characteristic of this species is the three toes present on their hind feet. It can also have four toes instead of three toes in some cases. When it comes to the shell, the upper shell, or carapace, is usually olive-brown in color with radiating yellow or orange lines. In contrast, the plastron or the lower shell is light brown or straw-colored with radiating yellow lines. The three-toed box turtle is also known for red or yellow markings present on its head and legs of males. A raised line can also be seen on the upper shell of these turtles. The eyes are often red in color, though they can also black. The legs of box turtles tend to be a little more rounded and small.

How cute are they?

A three-toed box turtle is quite cute and beautiful. Their olive-brown shell with colorful markings does make it look extremely beautiful.

How do they communicate?

Even though box turtles have the ability to vocalize, they don't make use of it that often. The calls are mainly used to communicate with their mates. A hissing sound might also be produced when the turtle is irritated. A lot is yet to be known about the communication patterns present in these reptiles. One of the interesting things is that box turtles, like other turtles, can also recognize their owners through their sight and sounds.

How big is a three-toed box turtle?

The average size of the three-toed box turtle is around 3.5-5 in (8.8-12.7 cm). Adult males can be slightly bigger than adult females. The size of the box turtle three-toed is quite similar or slightly smaller to that of the Florida box turtle that reaches an average length of 4-6 in (12.1-17.3 cm).

How fast can a three-toed box turtle swim?

The swimming speed of the subspecies three-toed box turtle is around 5.8 mph which is the average range for the box turtle species.

How much does a three-toed box turtle weigh?

The average weight of the three-toed box turtle is around 1-2 lb (0.4-0.9 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no distinct names for the male and female three-toed box turtles.

What would you call a baby three-toed box turtle?

Baby three-toed box turtles are called hatchlings.

What do they eat?

They are omnivorous reptiles, so they eat a lot of things including usual plant matter. These turtles are defined as opportunistic omnivores and are fond of eating insects found in shallow water. The three-toed box turtle's food can also include things like carrion and small animals like snails, worms, amphibians, and small mammals. Up to 60% of this turtle's diet consists of animal protein. When kept as pets, the turtles should be given a balanced diet which should include fruits and vegetables. The turtle can even be fed low-fat dog food. However, as these turtles have a tendency to grow obese, it is better to give them a limited amount of food. The box turtle can also be given lettuce.

Are they poisonous?

No, box turtles aren't poisonous. However, the turtles can consume poisonous mushrooms or other plant matter without getting any reaction from it. Some speculate that eating the turtles may lead to poisoning because of the remnants of the mushroom toxin.

Would they make a good pet?

Yes, this is a docile turtle that makes a good pet, and it can adapt well to living in captivity. However, it is important to think about the impact of keeping a wild animal in captivity as a pet. Due to the pet trade, a huge number of these reptiles are poached from the wild every year. If you decide to go ahead with getting a three-toed box turtle, it is advisable to get more information about the breeder to know if the turtles have been bred in captivity or not.

Did you know...

Three-toed box turtles practice brumation during the winter season. It digs through dirt and leaf litter with its feet to burrow and go dormant until the temperature rises.

The hard shell of this turtle prevents most animals from preying on it.

Are you thinking of getting a three-toed box turtle? If yes, then spend enough time figuring out the humidity. Their enclosures need to have a proper humidity level, and always remember to add non-chlorinated water in the uniform hydration system that you set up for your turtle.

How can you tell if a three-toed box turtle is male or female?

One of the easiest ways to tell the males from the females is through their tails. The male has a longer and thicker tail compared to that of the females. Males can also have red or orange eyes compared to females. The male turtles can also be more colorful and have hints of red, orange, or yellow on their head and legs. It can be hard to tell the sex of hatchlings and juvenile turtles, so it is better to keep them separate from each other.

How many eggs do three-toed box turtles lay?

The three-toed box turtles lay between three and eight eggs in a single breeding season.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including Orinoco crocodile facts or painted turtle facts.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Sulcata tortoise coloring pages.



At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents.

We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it’s important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.

Kidadl provides inspiration to entertain and educate your children. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.

Kidadl cannot accept liability for the execution of these ideas, and parental supervision is advised at all times, as safety is paramount. Anyone using the information provided by Kidadl does so at their own risk and we can not accept liability if things go wrong.

Sponsorship & Advertising Policy

Kidadl is independent and to make our service free to you the reader we are supported by advertising.

We hope you love our recommendations for products and services! What we suggest is selected independently by the Kidadl team. If you purchase using the buy now button we may earn a small commission. This does not influence our choices. Please note: prices are correct and items are available at the time the article was published.

Kidadl has a number of affiliate partners that we work with including Amazon. Please note that Kidadl is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.

We also link to other websites, but are not responsible for their content.

Read our Sponsorship & Advertising Policy
Get The Kidadl Newsletter

1,000 of inspirational ideas direct to your inbox for things to do with your kids.

Thank you! Your newsletter will be with you soon.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
No items found.
No items found.