Description: The bog turtle is the smallest North American
turtle and it rarely exceeds 4 in (11 cm) in size (3-3.5 in,
7.5 - 9 cm on average). It is usually identified by its small
size and orange/yellow patches on the sides of its head
and neck region. Its carapace is brown/black and is often
sculptured with obvious growth rings on each scute. Its plastron
is cream colored with black patches and lacks hinges. Males tend
to have much longer and thicker tails than females and males have
a slightly concave plastron.
Range and Habitat: Bog turtles are found in scattered
populations along the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern U.S.,
with centers of abundance in the northeast (New York and Pennsylvania)
and the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Southeast. In our region they
are most common in North Carolina but their range extends into
the mountains of northeastern Georgia and northwestern South Carolina.
The prefer cool, clear, shallow, slow-moving, muddy bottomed streams
that run through meadows, in swamps, and in sphagnum bogs (as
their name suggests). In Georgia, they inhabit mountain bogs,
which are unique wetland habitats that only occur in the Blue
Ridge Mountains. Unfortunately, these mountain bogs, like much
of their habitat, are quickly disappearing mainly due to human
development, such as the draining and filling of their wetlands.
Pollution and invasive plant species have also had a negative
impact on their environment. Ironically, because they require
open habitats, cattle grazing and fire are often beneficial for
Habits: Bog turtles are diurnal and spend the day foraging
in the water for plants and animals (e.g. various insects, invertebrates
and seeds). They breed after emerging from hibernation in late
spring/early summer. Females lay from 2-5 eggs in June/July in
a nest situated in a sunny area of a bog and is usually constructed
from sphagnum moss. Eggs hatch in about 7-8 weeks in late summer/fall.
It takes about 5-8 years for these turtles to reach sexual maturity.
Bog turtles have been known to hibernate in the deep mud bottoms
of bogs, but do not start doing so until they are 2-3 years old.
Their small size makes them vulnerable to predation by animals
such as raccoons and skunks, which also prey on their eggs and
Conservation Status: The bog turtle is state and federally
listed as threatened and is a protected species. In 2003, it was
listed by the Turtle Conservation Fund as one of the 25 most endangered
turtles in the world. Habitat loss and fragmentation is the main
threat to this species. In the past this species was heavily collected
for the pet trade and over collection is still a major concern
in the conservation of this species. It is illegal to possess
bog turtles without a permit.
Account Author: Justin Oguni, University of Georgia -
edited by J.D. Willson