Hiking Nature

Hiking in Nashville, Tennessee and beyond

Hiking Nature header image 2

Baby Box Turtle on South Cove Trail at Radnor Lake

August 10th, 2008 · 25 Comments · Radnor Lake, turtles

juvenile eastern box turtle at Radnor Lake in Nashville Tennessee

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

On my way up so-called “hill1” – the climb on the South Cove Trail nearest to the west (Granny White side) parking lot, I came upon a juvenile eastern box turtle. The appearance of baby turtles is interesting in that it differs significantly from the adult in color and shape, and not merely size. The design on the shell is different, and more incredibly, the shape of the carapace (shell) itself is much flatter than the shape it will take on as it matures.

adult eastern box turtle at Radnor Lake in Nashville Tennessee

In fact, the only reason I could positively identify the hatchling was that I’d seen newly hatched Eastern Box Turtles before. As a tween, I built and maintained what I referred to as the “turtle farm”. The turtle farm, was a big hit with all my animal loving friends, was a small enclosure I build in a small inconspicuous part of our yard on Lealand Lane. Even my folks were somewhat intrigued by it. (Well, on second thought, maybe not intrigued, but tolerant.) Although we moved and I had to dismantle the turtle farm, I uncovered some eggs, looked inside one of them, and preserved the tiny box turtle in a jar of alcohol. This tiny turtle, resting in the middle of the trail where it could easily be trod upon, looked just like that turtle farm specimen.

eastern box turtle at Radnor Lake in Nashville Tennessee

juvenile eastern box turtle at Radnor Lake in Nashville Tennessee

juvenile eastern box turtle at Radnor Lake in Nashville Tennessee

juvenile eastern box turtle at Radnor Lake in Nashville Tennessee

juvenile eastern box turtle at Radnor Lake in Nashville Tennessee


25 Comments so far ↓

  • Taiya

    Hey, I saw one of those in TN, and I saved it because it was trying to cross the road. Lol.

  • Scout

    We found a juvenile box turtle this morning in our backyard in Bellevue. My daughter wants to keep it as a pet (it’s name is now Bob.) We have a small habitat set up in a Rubbermaid container, with grass, some rocks, and a small, shallow dish of water. We have offered Bob a blueberry, grated carrot, and cilantro. Any advice on how we might keep Bob healthy and happy?

  • jamie

    box turtles like to eat crickets, earthworms, romaine lettuce, strawberries, brocolli, wax worms, and the should have a shallow dish of water they can access and fit their body into. they need a heat lamp for basking and also a UVB light which acts as sunlight

  • Scout

    Me again. We still have Bob (the hatchling box turtle that we found in August). By all appearances, Bob is healthy and happy. But we have noticed that he has been sleeping ALOT lately – days at a time. Is this normal? Do box turtles hibernate? Thanks for your help.

  • Annie

    Do they look like that when they are young then start growing the color red?

  • Annie

    Do they look like that when they are young then start growing the color red? My dad found one for me and I want to keep it! We named him carrot.

  • Frasier

    Thank you so much for visiting my hiking blog and especially for leaving a comment! I am trying to get more folks to the site.

    If you don’t mind, I would love to know how you found the site — whether you Googled it, and if so, what keywords you used and how the site ranked on Google — this will help me market the site to more people.

    I LOVE box turtles! This is one of the only baby ones I have ever seen at Radnor Lake, and it remains one of my favorite sightings!

    The Eastern Box turtle does not really have any red color, but it does have some yellow markings. I think there are some other box turtle species that have reddish colors, though like the Three-Toed Box Turtle on this page:


    Thanks again for visiting!

    Stephen Frasier

  • lizzy

    ohhh wow OK i get it know

    oh thanks so much i found a (baby) turtle the size of a quarter maybe a smudge bit bigger) (5-11-10 Tuesday) and we all thought it was a snapper but it looked nothing like it said and it has the same markings as the one you found at the trail and nothing like the web described it to look like and when i saw that the juvenile box had a small tail as mine does i knew it was it im sooo relieved and happy plus my mom will let me keep it as long as i want and please email me with cool facts anh habitas and info thankyou and cool blog thanks


    #1 biggest fan ever of yours!)

  • Chico english

    my brother found a baby box turtle what can it eat and do u put it in water and how much thank u please respone.

  • sam

    is there anywhere to find box turtles in louisiana

  • sam

    it is me again if there is please email me at diliberp@gmail.com
    thanks alot

  • Brenna

    my grandparents found a little box turtle on there steps and brout her over. i hink shes wild and would never want 2 keep her if she was but i dont know wat 2 do. i alreasy fell in love with her but cud never hurt anything, what should i do?

  • Scott

    Stumbled into your blog doing an image search for “baby box turtles”.

    In response to those asking about box turtles and keeping them as pets. It is illegal, in many states, to keep box turtles as pets. Turtles taken from the wild threaten the vitality of a species know for low reproduction. Caring for turtles is not as simple as many uninformed people may bring you to believe. Turtles of any species need more than a small habitat and food. As one poster mentioned, they took in a box turtle from the wild and within 2 months they noticed it sleeping for days at a time. That is a sure sign of malnutrition, lack of necessary sun exposure/vitamin D and possibly more serious illness. Those posts were from a year ago and, sadly, that box turtle has probably now perished.

    Thousands of eastern box turtles are taken from the wild each year, per state of their inhabitant. Calculate that and it adds up to an astronomical number for, again, an animal with a low rate of reproduction. Taking a box turtle out of its habitat, even for a short period of time, will have detrimental effects to its awareness of self and surroundings. Baby box turtles are cute but they are not meant for a pet on your nightstand…or anywhere else in a house. A photograph of that turtle will be just as cute, much easier to care for and last much longer than a wild box turtle taken from its natural habitat and placed inside a tiny, plastic crate with rocks, dead grass and stagnant water. It’s much more capable of caring for itself in its wild world than a human is caring for it on the kitchen counter.

  • carrly

    we just found this box tutle on the road this morning and we r about to build it a habbitat and give it to our cousin ed as a bday present in two days . he dosent know yet . her name is chocolate thunder because she is surprisingly fast.

  • Peggi

    I found this website by looking up juvenile box turtles and am really glad I did. Reading over all the info. and comments previous people have left has been informative. Some info on my turtle….it was found in late August, I almost ran it over with the lawn mower. It stopped eating about two weeks now and is staying in one spot. I’m guessing by what I have been reading from articles that it is hibernating. I’m not sure but I think it may be a juvenile. I know at this time I cannot let it back into the wild in its present stage (hibernating) it will die, and I certainly do not want that to happen. My question is how long do you think it will hibernate?

  • The most popular posts on this Nashville hiking blog

    […] Baby Box Turtle on South Cove Trail at Radnor Lake is the fourth most popular page on this blog. That baby box turtle might be my favorite creature of all those I’ve seen so far at Radnor Lake. I have been a box turtle enthusiast ever since the “turtle farm” I built and maintained in our yard as a youth. […]

  • robert

    What do box turtles eat?

  • Stephen

    Box turtles are omnivores; they eat fruits, vegetables, insects, spiders, worms, grubs, etc. Box turtles do poorly in captivity and should never be kept in small aquariums or in boxes.

    If you want to keep box turtles as pets, create an enclosure outside in an area that gets plenty of sun plus an option for shade. In early captivity, box turtles are most likely to eat things like earthworms and mealworms: something that moves and thus catches their attention easily. They need to have apples, carrots, and other vegetables and fruits available.

    My pride and joy as a tween was my “turtle farm” — an enclosure with a small pond lined with rocks, so the turtles would not get stuck in the water. I kept fish, crayfish, baby snapping turtles, and other creek and pond life in a great setting for eight or so Eastern Box Turtles. They even wintered in the enclosure; when the cold season arrived (back when we used to have annual winter weather in Nashville, Tennessee), I dumped several large bags of raked leaves for them to hibernate under. It was a great success and lots of fun.

  • Roberta Fudge

    I found a small 1.5 inch turtle in my dog run in TN, or should I say my dog found it. My dog has brought 4 turtles out of her run to me, but this was the smallest. I usually release them deeper into my forest. But the tiny babyone… does it need a den? Is it still cared for by it’s family? Should I put out to the forest or bring it to the Nature Center near my house? Do they have dens?

  • Stephen

    Hello Roberta,
    Thanks a lot for taking the time to ask the question. Sadly, too many people just wouldn’t care… Anyway, baby reptiles are (amazingly) able to care for themselves; after the female box turtle has laid her eggs, she’s done! (I am guessing it’s an Eastern Box Turtle, but the answer remains the same regardless of species.)

    Have a great holiday,

  • nancy innes

    My dog found my baby box turtle. Then every time I have tried to let it go where it was found my dog keeps bringing it back.. I don,t know if it is okay to keep her or not.

  • Stephen

    Box turtles don’t do very well in captivity without lots of attention and effort to create a natural environment and an assortment of fruits, veggies, and live worms and such. I recommend releasing it in a safe natural area away from roads where your curious dog cannot find it! Thanks for your comment – I love box turtles.

  • Eric

    I just rescued one of these guys from almost catching on fire at my camp ground.

  • Stephen

    Way to go… that’s good to hear. What a painful, undeserving death that would have been for such an innocent critter.

  • paula

    what does he eat i found one in my back yard and wont to keep him