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Kansas State Reptile

Ornate Box Turtle

Kansas State Reptile: Ornate Box Turtle

(Terrapene ornata)

Adopted in 1986.

Kansas designated the ornate box turtle (Terrapene ornata) as the offical state reptile in 1986. There are only two species of land-dwelling turtles that live on the great plains (the ornate box turtle and its close cousin, the eastern box turtle). The ornate box turtle prefers prairies and pastures over forest - it is found from South Dakota to southern Arizona and the Rio Grande valley (the Mississippi river generally marks the eastern boundary of its range). It is illegal in Kansas to take turtles from the wild to keep as pets.

Kansas State Reptile: Ornate Box Turtle

Kansas State Reptile: Ornate Box Turtle

The Ornate box turtle (Terrapene ornata ornata) is one of only two terrestrial species of turtles native to the Great Plains of the United States. It is one of the two different subspecies of Terrapene ornata. It is the state reptile of Kansas. It is a relatively small turtle, that is currently not endangered or threatened but is of concern and protected in six Midwestern states (Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, Kansas, and Wisconsin). Males and females generally look alike but males are often smaller; there is color variation with yellow lines from the center of the shell to the edges through gray, red-brown, or black coloration. Besides the size, males can be distinguished from females in several ways; a large curved inner claw on the back feet, a cloacal opening that is farther back in males, a longer and thicker tail, and reddish color on the legs and occasionally on the jaw

Small (up to 13 cm CL) turtle with dark brown carapace, yellow midback stripe and yellow lines radiating from center of each scute (6-8 lines per pleural scute). Plastron patterned with yellow lines on dark scutes. Head sometimes spotted. Male differs from female by having slightly concave plastron and red rather than brown eyes. Hatchling resembles adult, but yellow markings are more like spots than lines.


Prairies (other than black muck prairie) and open fields in former prairie.

Natural History

Tends to be more carnivorous than eastern box turtle, but eats some vegetation. Eats mainly insects, but also snails, earthworms, tadpoles, bird eggs and hatchlings, and carrion. Female lays one or more clutches of 4-6 ellipsoidal, relatively hard-shelled eggs (ca. 35 x 20 mm) in June. Hibernates about two weeks earlier than eastern box turtle, and emerges in spring about two weeks later.

Kansas Law

The law designating the ornate box turtle as the official Kansas state reptile is found in the Kansas General Statutes, Chapter 73, Article 19, Section 73-1901.

2009 Kansas Statutes Annotated (K.S.A.)
Chapter 73: Soldiers, Sailors And Patriotic Emblems
Article 19: State Reptile

KSA 73-1901 Designation. The Terrapene ornata, Agassiz (ornate box turtle) is hereby designated as and declared to be the official reptile of the state of Kansas.

History: L. 1986, ch. 277, sec. 1; July 1.

Taxonomic Hierarchy: Ornate Box Turtle

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Family: Emydidae
Genus: Terrapene
Species: Terrapene ornata - Agassiz, 1857
SubSpecies: T. o. ornata (ornate box turtle)

State Reptiles
State Reptiles
Twenty-six U.S. states have named an official state reptile. As with other state symbols, states compare admirable aspects of the reptile and of the state, within designating statutes. Schoolchildren often start campaigns promoting their favorite reptile to encourage state legislators to enact it as a state symbol. Many secretaries of state maintain educational web pages that describe the state reptile.
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