Meet our State Reptile, the Eastern Box Turtle
The Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina), North Carolina’s State Reptile, is a terrestrial turtle found throughout the eastern United States. They are characterized by their highly domed carapace (top shell) and hinged plastron (bottom shell), which allow these animals to completely close their shell to protect themselves from predators. The elaborate and brightly colored shell patterns of box turtles are extremely variable, making each individual unique. Box turtles are omnivores with diets consisting of anything from slugs and snails to mushrooms and berries.
Eastern box turtles can live longer than 50 years and have a rather slow growth rate, taking 7-10 years to reach sexual maturity. Of the hundreds of eggs that a female box turtle can lay throughout her lifetime, very few hatchlings are likely to survive to adulthood. Consequently, box turtles are highly susceptible to population declines because they are not able to rapidly recover from the loss of adult individuals within a population. Major threats to box turtles are associated with human activities and include capture for the pet trade, vehicular traffic, lawn mowers, and habitat destruction and fragmentation due to urban development. Urbanization confines surviving populations to smaller spaces where they become more vulnerable to extinction. Railroads pose an additional threat to box turtles because they can become trapped between the rails where they are more susceptible to predation and may die from overheating.
The Eastern box turtle plays a valuable role in our ecosystem and, as the State Reptile, is an important part of our natural heritage that we, with a conscious conservation effort, will be able to enjoy long into the future.
The General Assembly of 1979 designated the Eastern Box Turtle as the official State Reptile for North Carolina. (Session Laws, 1979, c. 154).
Written by Leigh Anne Harden, Davidson College Herpetology Laboratory, 2006
Hatchling Box Turtle
Bright Male Box Turtle
Female Box Turtle
Box Turtle Venter
Other Box Turtle links:
Herps of NC’s Box Turtle Page
The Box Turtle Connection: A Passageway into the Natural World (pdf)
NCHS Eastern Box Turtle Care Sheet (pdf)
Meet our State Frog, the Pine Barrens Treefrog
Pine Barrens tree frog (Hyla andersonii), North Carolina’s State Frog, is a uniquely striking frog, considered by some to be the most beautiful frog in the Southeast. It is a medium-sized, mostly green treefrog with a white-bordered lavender stripe on each side of its body and a brilliant orange underside along each leg.
In North Carolina, they can be found mainly in pine forests and acid bogs in the Sandhills and Coastal Plain. This frog’s name reflects one of North Carolina’s signature trees and ecosystems that has been a part of our state’s economic, cultural, and natural history since colonial times.
Like most frogs, they are nocturnal and not often seen during the day. Pine Barrens treefrogs spend much of their time in shrubs and low-lying vegetation. These frogs can be difficult to spot, but from March through September males can be heard calling with a repeated duck or goose-like call that sounds like a “quonk.” Females attach eggs singly or in small clusters to Sphagnum moss, or lay them on the bottom of the wetland.
Natural Heritage Program lists the Pine Barrens treefrog with a special status of “significantly rare” in North Carolina and they are a priority species in the NC Wildlife Action Plan. Populations are on the decline due to loss of habitat. Amphibians play an important role in natural systems of our state and serve as indicators of environmental health.
Meet our State Salamander, the Marbled Salamander
The marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum), North Carolina’s State Salamander, is a uniquely patterned, chunky black and white or gray salamander, found nearly statewide. These salamanders inhabit a variety of habitats, from upland forests and forest edges to wetlands and floodplain forests. Most commonly found throughout the Piedmont and Coastal Plain of North Carolina, they are also found in a few locations in the Mountains.
Marbled salamanders are in the mole salamander family and spend much of their life in moist, fossorial retreats. The best time of year to view these salamanders is in the autumn and early winter when adults migrate, sometimes great distances, to woodland pools or depressions for breeding. Females deposit eggs under natural-cover objects on pool edges and guard them until rain floods the nest. Females will leave the eggs once the nest area is flooded.
These black and white or silver salamanders are sexually dimorphic. Males usually have a brighte , whitish marbled pattern while females usually have a duller silver marbling. No two marbled salamanders are colored alike.
We believe that marbled salamanders are still fairly common in the state, but loss of habitat and fragmentation of habitat threaten our local populations. Monitoring their current status is important because amphibians play an important role in natural systems of our state and serve as indicators of environmental health.