Do turtles eat strawberries?

If it wasn’t for our dog Dakota we wouldn’t know about half of the creatures we share our one acre with. She’d led us to Eastern Kingsnakes, Minotaur Dung Beetles and a variety of other interesting creatures and plants. This time it was a turtle in our strawberry patch.

Eastern Box Turtle Terrapene carolinaOur dog went out for potty and when I called she didn’t come. I looked out the window and saw her in the strawberries with her nose to the ground. Irritated, I went to get her. Something had been eating the strawberries and we suspected our dog but we’d never caught her in the act.

I fully expected to catch Dakota red-handed eating our strawberries but when I got down to the strawberry patch she wasn’t eating, she was pawing at something. Her level of intensity made me think it was a toad. Our dog was a toad chaser and had given us quite a scare one night when she ate a big toad.

This time, however, she wasn’t after a toad, she was after a large high-domed turtle. I softened a bit when I saw what had caused her to ignore my calls. How could I possibly compete with a big turtle? I picked up the turtle and moved it out of the strawberry patch and took Dakota into the house. The turtle didn’t get set loose until I had taken nearly 40 photos of it.

I kept wondering about finding the turtle in the strawberries. Do turtles eat strawberries? Did Dakota solve the mystery of our strawberry thief? I researched our turtle and identified it as an Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina).

Eastern Box Turtle Terrapene carolinaEastern Box Turtles are land turtles that can live up to 50 years and some claim much longer. They are found from the East Coast to Texas and Oklahoma, north to Michigan and Massachusetts, and south to Florida. They don’t generally go into the water unless it’s shallow and are usually found in wooded areas, swamps and fields. We had wooded areas on either side of our backyard.

Eastern Box Turtles hibernate in the winter burying themselves up to two feet underground. I remembered finding a turtle buried underground in the woods a couple years earlier. I was digging a hole to plant something and the shovel hit a rock. I dug the rock out to discover it wasn’t a rock at all, but a big turtle. Thankfully the shovel hadn’t harmed him and I set him on his way. I was surprised to find a live turtle buried so deep in the ground.

The most important thing I learned was that yes, turtles eat strawberries. Eastern Box Turtles eat a variety of fruits, berries and vegetables. They also eat bugs, worms, snails, grubs, caterpillars, crickets, beetles, grass, flowers, mushrooms (even toxic ones), and they will feed on dead animals if they happen across one.

Dakota was a semi-adult shelter dog who was the Queen of Bad Behavior and the Master of Dirty Tricks. Bad Dog to Best Friend takes you from Dakota’s awful beginnings to her amazing transformation.

The turtle story is featured in the book “Over the Hummingbird’s Rainbow: An Acre of America Backyard Nature Series” which is a back yard nature travelog with photos and stories. “Over the Hummingbird’s Rainbow” is available on Kindle and paperback.

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