Lila and Myrtle live within the atrium at the CSU Extension Boulder County. Myrtle came to us as an abandoned pet found on the side of the road in the 1990’s. Lila was donated in the early 2000’s by a former County Agriculture Agent who had her for 25 years. They are both over 40 years old and are our beloved mascots. They are different sub-species of the Western Box turtle. Myrtle is the largest of the two and is known as an Ornate Western Box turtle, Terrapene ornata ornata.
These turtles are easily identified by the coloring on their shells. The background of the shell can vary from gray to brown to black, but what all ornate box turtles have in common are yellow lines or stripes that radiate from the top center of the shell towards the outside. Myrtle’s pattering is not as striking as other ornate box turtles, but her unique stripe and dot patterns create a fingerprint that distinguishes her from all other box turtles.
Although we have yet to positively identify the species which Lila belongs to, we believe she is a Desert Box turtle, Terrapene ornata luteola. Desert box turtles are similar to ornate box turtles, but do not possess the radiant stripe patterning as seen in ornate box turtles and the background of their shell is more yellow in color. Desert box turtles are endemic to the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico.
All box turtles are herbivores and our two turtles are no different. Although they have a regular diet of processed turtle food, they prefer fresh protein as well as fruits and vegetables. Meal worms are a favorite along with bananas, strawberries, and steamed brassica (broccoli and cauliflower).