Three-toed Box Turtle
Terrapene carolina triunguis
(a subspecies)

The Three-toed Box Turtle is a subspecies within the group of hinge-shelled turtles commonly referred to as box turtles. This subspecies is native to the south-central part of the United States and is the official reptile of the state of Missouri.

Three toed box turtles are so named due to the number of toes on the back feet, but some think that there are some 4-toed examples too. By the same token, some speculate that the 4-toed individuals are actually hybrids from the Eastern box turtle and the three toed box turtle. Three-toed box turtles have a domed shell that grows to an average 4.5 to 5 inches in length. The record for this subspecies is 7 inches. The highest part of its carapace or upper shell is more posteriorly positioned then in the other subspecies.  The dorsal and limb coloration is commonly completely absent, although some dark blotches are common in adult turtles. These areas more often a uniform olive green or tan color. Sometimes, faint yellow dots or lines are visible in the center of each large scute. The head and throat often display yellow, red, or orange spots. Frequently the bottom shell or plastron is a straw yellow color, and has fewer dark markings than the plastrons of other subspecies.

The three-toed box turtle is found from eastern Texas to the northern edge of the Florida Panhandle. Its northernmost habitat is in Missouri and Kansas, while the southernmost is in Louisiana. The Three-toed interbreed with other subspecies of eastern box turtles which overlap the borders of this area. An example of this occurs in the eastern Mississippi valley where this species is difficult to distinguish from the common box turtle.

The three-toed box turtle is very popular in the pet trade, and are often found well outside of their home range. It is not known whether such captives when released into the wild have any impact on the local species of such areas. These turtles are adaptive, and are possibly the only box turtle who can live happily in an indoor enclosure.

It is known that these turtles eat poisonous mushrooms, but are not themselves sickened by the mushroom's toxins. Afterwards, the turtles then become poisonous themselves. As pets, they have been reported to eat mealworms, corn, melon, crickets, waxworms, tomatoes, cooked eggs, fruit, and even moist dog food. They can be shy about being watched while eating, and may stop and stare back motionless if this happens (top picture).

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