Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Navigate Up
Sign In

Quick Launch

Got Nature? > Posts > Why is it called a box turtle?
May 13
Why is it called a box turtle?

Box turtles are so-called because unlike most turtles they can completely close up their shell, much like a box. They have a hinged belly that can close so tightly that even an ant couldn’t get inside. They have probably evolved this capability in order to be safe from predators such as raccoons and opossums. There is a wonderful British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) video called Eastern Box Turtle. We have two box turtle species in Indiana, the ornate box turtle and the eastern box turtle. Both are protected by law from disturbance of any kind with the single exception of moving them out of danger, such as helping one cross a road (place it on the side it was headed; it will cross again if you return it to the original side). Box TurtleBoth box turtl​es in Indiana are state protected because their numbers are declining, probably due to habitat loss and road deaths. What can you do to help? Slow down when driving, especially on rainy spring, summer or fall mornings. If you wish to have a box turtle as a pet, make sure that it was captive-reared, not wild-caught, though both are illegal in Indiana. If you encounter an injured box turtle that needs medical attention, call the Indiana DNR at 800.893.4116 or 317.232.4080 during business hours, 765.473.9722 (northern half of Indiana) or 812.837.9536 (southern half of Indiana) after hours, or visit

To learn more about box turtles and other turtle species in Indiana, visit The Education Store for “The Turtles of Indiana”.

​​Steve Kimble, Post Doctoral Research Associate
Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue

Rod Williams, Associate Professor of Wildlife Science
Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue​

facebook twitter google plus reddit linked in email

 Have a Question?


Question BubbleEnter a question for the blog.
Specialists will post the resources you need.


 More Resources

FNR Extension

Purdue Extension

FNR Facebook
FNR Facebook

For publications:
The Education Store

Purdue Nature of Teaching
Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Master Gardener, Purdue University

Tree Doctor App, Purdue University

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory

Purdue Six Legs News Column

Purdue Yard and Garden