Eastern box turtles are out and about in Louisville

These turtles have awoken from hibernation — here’s what to do if you see one around.

Eastern box turtle sleeping in the forest

An eastern box turtle hatchling makes its way around Louisville Nature Center.

Eastern box turtles hibernate during winter and emerge in late April or early May, which means they’re starting to pop up around Louisville.

Charlie Combs, Americorps Environmental Education Leadership Member and Environmental Educator at Louisville Nature Center explained that it’s currently prime time for eastern box turtles to get moving, as food and other resources are more readily available in the springtime.

They often live in shrubby grasslands, marshy meadows, and open woodlands — think Beckley Creek Park and The Parklands.

If you see one of these reptiles — which are identified by their high-domed + rounded hard upper shell with vivid orange and yellow markings — let it be. Moving an eastern box turtle can be detrimental to its health.

“They get a mental map of the area they were born in,” Charlie said. “If they lose that map, they lose the sense of where everything they need is.”

Eastern Box Turtle sitting in a person's hand

A Louisville Nature Center pro holds a turtle in this pic, but remember — if you find one in the wild, let it be.

Charlie added that the turtles will only venture out far enough from their birthplace to find an area they feel is safe and can produce enough food. Once they’ve found the right spot, that becomes their permanent residence.

If the turtle is moved from what it has deemed its forever home, it will spend all its resources trying to get back to where it came from — which puts it at high risk for injury and death. Eastern box turtles trying to find their way might encounter cars, lawnmowers, or bigger animals.

When left in its natural habitat, an eastern box turtle’s lifespan is typically 30 to 50 years. Charlie added that when well cared for, rescued turtles — or those bred and raised in captivity — will live for nearly a century.

Louisville Nature Center offers numerous family-friendly educational programs about plants, turtles + other animals. For more kid-friendly activity ideas, check out this guide.

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