This month we take a look at a young herper from Oklahoma. At 20 years old Aaron Short and has 3 herping seasons under his belt. He is a herping force that shouldn’t be ignored. His photos are amazing as well. This guy is no joke. In just 3 Herping seasons, he has managed to find 125 species! He has located over 100 species who call Oklahoma home. In addition to Oklahoma, Aaron has done some herping in New Mexico and Arizona. He even got to do an hour of herping in Louisiana. Hey, herping is herping!
Aaron has managed to build a substantial Herping resume.
Aaron has found 45 of the 56 Oklahoma Snake Species!
Aaron says he got into Herping early in the 2012 Herping Season because of his girlfriend, Brittany Wheeler (@bits_of_skittles) and her brother, Killian Wheeler (@brutalis69).
Aaron has only been taking pictures of his herps this past season (Herping 2014). You wouldn’t believe it if you took a look at his Instagram account. It is obvious Aaron has photography talent. He credits his good friend Adam for the skills he has obtained thus far in his photography. Be sure to check out Adam’s work on his Instagram @professor_pouncey.
Aaron attributes most of his knowledge about North American Herpetology from extensive studying of the internet, books, his girl friend Brittany and her brother Killian, and the experiences he has had in the field.
I think there is no better way to broaden your knowledge about herps than encountering them in the field. ~ Aaron Short
When asked about his favorite herp that he is found, Aaron told me about a blacktail rattlesnake he found while in Arizona. On the radar for the 2015 herping season, Aaron says he will be hoping for a Oklahoma Milk Snake or a Oklahoma mud snake.
Aaron and I talked a few minutes about lifers. I shared with him my personal story with mud snakes in NC. Found one just to watch it get hit while I was pulling over and another I found alive just to discover it had fatal injuries from being hit before I found it. Aaron shared with me his story about what would have been a lifer for him. The prairie rattlesnake is the only venomous snake left in Oklahoma for him. He watched one get ran over by a passing car while attempting to stop for the snake. He described it as a tough blow. We were able to feel the pain of being so close but too late.
HerpersGuide.com will be selecting one person each month in the year 2015 to feature on our site. If you know someone you think should be featured please let us know. Email Phillip at plaxton@HerpersGuide.com with a means of contact and the reason you think they should be featured.
The Eastern Box Turtle is truly one of my favorite turtle species. This turtle is the only “land turtle” found in my state. There are so many things that set the Eastern Box Turtle apart from the rest of the State’s species of turtle. I am glad this little guy was chosen to represent our State.
The Eastern Box Turtle is a subspecies of the “Common Box Turtle”. The Box Turtle currently has six living subspecies and one known extinct subspecies. Four subspecies in the United States and the other two subspecies are found in Mexico.
Common Box Turtle Subspecies
Florida Box Turtle, T.c. bauri
Gulf Coast Box Turtle, T.c. major
Three-toed Box Turtle, T.c. triunguis
Eastern Box Turtle, T.c. carolina
Mexican Box Turtle, T.c. mexicana
Yucatan Box Turtle, T.c. yucatana
The Extinct Box Turtle of Georgia
Putnami Box Turtle, T.c. putnami
This article is focused on the Eastern Box Turtle. It is the most dominant subspecies and is believed by most scientist to be the primary bloodline of Common Box Turtle. We hope to eventually get the other members of this species online soon. Many of the Eastern Box Turtles traits can be found in the other members of the species.
The Eastern Box Turtle is a bilobed, or double hinged plastron, turtle. This allows the turtle to close its shell completely. This ability to completely inclose it’s self within its shell is one way it can be identified against mud and musk turtles. The carapace is a highly domed, rounded shell that has variable markings. In most specimen, the Eastern Box Turtle’s markings are vivid. The upper jaw is slightly hooked and many have a significant overbite. The Toes are slightly webbed.
Eastern Box Turtles tend to get slightly larger than other members of the species. They typically max out around 8 inches but some have been found just over 9 inches. Males and females are very easily distinguished in Eastern Box Turtles.
How to Distinguish Male and Female
Males tend to be larger in overall size and weight
Males tend to have red or orange eyes and females tend to have tan, dull yellow, or brown eyes.
The female has a more highly domed carapace than males.
The plastron of males are concave while the female plastron is flat.
Males tend to have more color splashes on the head and feet than females. Color on the carapace is usually equally colored.
Feeding and Diet:
Eastern Box Turtles feed on a number of things. They are omnivores, meaning eater of plant and animals. The Eastern Box Turtle will eat insects, worms and caterpillars, fruit and berries, mushrooms, and even carrion (dead animals). The Young start out with a higher protein diet (meat) and gradually shift to more veggies as they mature.
I have found Eastern Box Turtles feeding on mushrooms regularly. They also love cucumber gardens! I have found them on strawberry farms as well.
In my opinion, the Eastern Box Turtle is one of the most predictable turtles in my home range. I can tell you before I even leave the house if they will be out or not. They are fully terrestrial (North Carolina’s only one). They do however love the occasional bath. They are diurnal, or day time exclusive. I find Eastern Box Turtles out within the first hour of daylight and the last couple hours of daylight more than any other time.
The Eastern Box Turtle is a very shy turtle. They are very quick to go inside their shell and close up. I have seen them stay in the shell for several minutes. I have discovered that old males will sometimes stay out of their shell when picked up.
The Eastern Box Turtle is regularly hit by cars on the road. Just to give you an example, one morning I left for work. We had a very dry spell up to this particular day. It hadn’t rained any real amount in 15 days. The rain came in just before I began my travel to work. The sun was also just coming up.
On this 8 mile stretch of road between work and my home, I encountered 11 box turtles. Of the 11 that I seen, 4 were freshly hit. (I did move the others to safety. More on this later).
The Eastern Box Turtle can be found in many different kinds of habitat. They can live in wooded areas, fields, parks, swamps, and sandhills. Although they are terrestrial, they frequent streams, creeks, and ponds.
The Eastern Box Turtle matures very slow. Most do not reach maturity until they are 7 or 8 years old. There are many that do not reach maturity until they are 10 or 11 years old. The Eastern Box Turtle mates in early Fall. The mother will lay 3-6 eggs the following spring. The young, if the nest survives, will hatch late summer early Fall. The baby Eastern Box Turtle will only be a little over an inch at hatching.
The Eastern Box Turtle deserves credit for a lot of neat facts. So here it goes:
Males and females are very easily distinguished as pointed out earlier in this article.
The Eastern Box Turtle has a very small range. Most turtles can be seen in the same field or seen crossing the same paths year after year.
The Eastern Box Turtle has a homing drive. If this turtle is moved away from its home, IT WILL TRY TO GET BACK HOME.
The Eastern Box Turtle is a creature of habit. Once you learn a turtle you can easily predict his/her next move. When I was younger, there was an Eastern Box Turtle i seen day after day, year after year. I hope he is still doing well.
Cruising the roads, at dawn and dusk, on rainy days yield good results. I love looking for them when conditions are right because I want to get them out of the road. (***If you find a Box Turtle in the road, carry him/her off the road in the direction he/she was headed***)
Look along creeks, pools, ponds, and streams. Especially when it has been dry for several days.
Look in the underbrush.
LISTEN….. I have found many Eastern Box Turtles just investigating the rustle of leaves and pine-straw.
Special Note of Concern***
The Box Turtle (including all subspecies) are homing turtles. DO NOT try to relocate. If found in an unsafe area such as a road, move the turtle to a safe spot in the direction the turtle was heading. A turtle that has been relocated will very likely die trying to get back to its home. Especially if crossing a road is required to get home.
** This is a quick observe, leave where you found species **
In many places, it is against the law to disturb Terrapene carolina. Know the laws in your area.