Florida Box Turtle Project

The Florida box turtle (Terrapene bauri or T. bauri) is the southernmost subspecies of the common box turtle (Terrapene carolina) in the United States. All Sanibel turtles are protected by law from collection or commercialization. 

About the Florida Box Turtle


Florida box turtles occur in most of the peninsula of Florida, including the Florida Keys and many barrier islands along both coasts. Their range just barely extends into southern Georgia near Jacksonville, Florida.


This small species (typically 5-7 inches) lives in tropical hammocks, swales, coastal dunes, pine flatwoods, and marshes in Florida. 

Our Role

Since 2002, SCCF began researching box turtles on Sanibel and Captiva, resulting in valuable data sets on habitat, longevity, and population status.

Florida box turtle facts

  • Florida box turtles are omnivorous, eating small prey such as carrion, insects, fruits, berries, and seeds.
  • The Florida box turtle on Sanibel was referred to as “The Jewel of Sanibel” by Sanibel naturalist and nature writer George Campbell in the 1980s because of its beautiful yellow streaks on its black carapace, which it uses to camouflage itself in vegetation.
  • Florida box turtles usually live 50-70 years, but can live longer than a century. They have high survivability after reaching adulthood and can lay eggs into old age.
  • Their home ranges are relatively small, usually between 0.5 acres to 7 acres.
  • Florida box turtles are protected from collection on Sanibel and protected from commercialization in Florida.
box turtle

Threats to Florida box turtles

  • Illegal collection for the national and international pet trade.
  • The development of natural habitats for housing developments and businesses.
  • Road mortality — these turtles frequently cross roads to move between foraging and nesting habitats.
  • A long maturation period and slow reproduction rate means populations don't replenish as fast. Removal of even one adult can affect populations in the future.
marked box turtle
A marked box turtle. The holes in the marginal scutes represent a numbering pattern so each turtle can be identified. Research turtles also have internal PIT-tags as a second identification method, with photography as a third method. Each individual has unique shell patterns and abnormalities, like fingerprints!

How You Can Help

If you are interested in supporting our Florida box turtle project financially, we are looking for sponsors to help with the costs of microchips, radio transmitters, and telemetry technicians.

If you see a box turtle on Sanibel or Captiva, please take a picture and notify us at 239-472-3984, or email clechowicz@sccf.org.

Box Turtle News

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