Photo by Jeff Hall
Scientific Name: Glyptemys (Clemmys) muhlenbergii
Classification: Nongame species; Federally and state listed as Threatened
Abundance: Rare (blue area)
Adult bog turtle (Photo by Jeff Hall)
Juvenile bog turtle (Photo by Gabrielle Graeter)
Bog turtle (Photo by Jonathan Mays)
The bog turtle is the smallest turtle in North America, reaching an adult length of only 4 to 5 inches in length. Because they spend most of their time under water, buried in mud or hiding in thick vegetation, bog turtles are difficult to see, making their population numbers difficult for N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission biologists to estimate. Fewer than 100 bog turtle populations have been documented in North Carolina. Bog turtles have a light or dark brown carapace (top shell) with with scutes that have a light center or pattern of lines radiating outward. There is a distinctive red, orange or yellow marking on either side of the neck. The plastron (bottom shell) is typically dark brown with black patches and no hinge. Male bog turtles have longer and thicker tails than females, as well as a slightly concave plastron.
The bog turtle inhabits wetland areas, such as wet meadows and bogs, including some in cattle pastures and beaver complexes in western North Carolina. It is an omnivorous reptile that feeds on worms, beetles, and snails along with various plant parts, including small berries. It is diurnal, meaning that it is active during the day and sleeps at night. Bog turtles typically become sexually mature at 6 to 7 years old and breed in the late spring or early summer. Females lay one to six eggs that hatch in August, September or October. Nest sites are generally located on elevated patches of sphagnum moss or sedges in a sunny area. Learn more about the bog turtle by reading the Bog Turtle Wildlife Species Profile.
Due to population declines and threats to the species and its habitat, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service federally listed the northern population (from Maryland through New England) of the bog turtle as a threatened species in 1997. The southern population (from southwest Virginia through Georgia) received a status of “threatened due to similarity of appearance” because they were believed to be less threatened in the south. This status does not afford bog turtles (and especially their habitats) in the south the same level of protection as those in the north. Bog turtles are state-listed as threatened in North Carolina and identified as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the N.C. Wildlife Action Plan.
Because bog turtles are state listed as a threatened species, they cannot be collected or taken except under a special permit issued by the Wildlife Commission’s Executive Director. More information.
There are no reported problems with this species. However, you can help protect vunerable bog turtle populations by:
The Commission began surveys for bog turtles in North Carolina in the early 1990s to determine their range. Since then, Commission biologists have conducted surveys every year and recorded important information on each bog turtle that is captured such as gender, age, shell length and the capture location.
Additionally, Project Bog Turtle is a conservation initiative of the N. C. Herpetological Society that began in the mid-1970s with a bog turtle distribution study in North Carolina. The objectives of this project focus on educating the public and landowners about bog turtle conservation, surveying for bog turtle populations and monitoring them for illegal collections, and protecting and restoring suitable bog turtle habitat in our state. The Commission, along with many different conservation organizations and individuals are involved in Project Bog Turtle.
The Commission is working in collaboration with Project Bog Turtle to tag bog turtles across the turtle’s range in the Southeast. Each bog turtle captured during surveys is implanted with a harmless PIT-tag (Passive Integrated Transponder tag). These tags are unique identifiers that allow biologists to individually identify the turtle if it is captured again, which allows for estimating population sizes, measuring growth and other vital rates, helping prevent the illegal collection of bog turtles.
Bog Turtle Species Profile
Wildlife Diversity Program Quarterly Reports
Protected Wildlife Species of North Carolina Listings (PDF)