Help Keep Track of Turtles!

eastern box turtle

Frogs, toads, snakes, turtles, salamanders, and lizards. These reptiles and amphibians are the subject of study of herpetologists. The word herpetology comes from the Greek, herpetos, for creeping – or was it creepy? – animals. You can find all of these lovely creatures right here in Northern Virginia.

Turtles, in particular, are one of the cuter ambassadors for the science of creeping things. And this year, the Virginia Herpetological Society is asking for your help reporting sightings of the Eastern Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina carolina. (Terrapene, as it turns out, comes from the Algonquin word for turtle, just like the diamondback terrapin from Maryland.) Eastern box turtles are the neat little guys that only get to be about 8 inches long but can live up to 30, 50, 80, or even 100 years old!

Our eastern box turtle friends are susceptible to human activity, especially the activity of our cars, lawn mowers, and bulldozers. They have been listed as lower risk - near threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. So every time you see an eastern box turtle this spring, help keep track of what’s happening to them. Go online to the Virginia Herps Society website,, and fill out their handy form letting them know where exactly you saw your box turtle and what condition it was in.

And one more thing: if you see a turtle trying to get to the other side of the road and you’d like to give it a hand, don’t set it back where it started. These guys have internal homing devices, so it’ll just start crossing the road again. That being said, if you want to help it across, any turtle would surely appreciate a quick trip to help them on their way.

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