New Jersey State Reptile
Bog Turtle (common name)
Glyptemys muhlenbergii (scientific name)
The semi-aquatic bog turtle, one of the smallest turtles in the world, is native to the eastern United States. It’s a particularly shy reptile, unlikely to be seen in the wild both because of its shyness and also because it is becoming increasingly rare. This quiet little creature makes a popular pet and is often illegally taken from the wild to be sold as a pet. Habitat loss and pollution are also issues for this reptile, as is the turtle’s naturally slow reproductive rate.
ALSO KNOWN AS
The bog turtle is small with a dark brown shell that has pronounced ridges when a turtle is young. These gradually wear smooth as the reptile ages. A younger turtle also has a flatter shell, which grows domed as the turtle matures. Its undershell is dark, but may have a few lighter markings. Head, legs, and feet are also dark brown, almost the same shade as the shell. This turtle’s most distinguishing feature is an irregular, yellow-orange spot on each side of its head, just behind the eye. The bog turtle’s legs also sometimes have yellow, orange, or red mottling. A female usually has a smaller head, thinner tail, shorter front claws, and a higher, broader shell when compared to a male. A female’s undershell is flat, while a male’s curves inward.
Up to 30 years
Chalky wetlands with both dry and wet areas such as marshes, spring seeps, wet meadows, and bogs, often near wooded areas.
Range: Massachusetts south along the east coast into Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware. Also Virginia across Tennessee and the Carolinas into Georgia. Small, disconnected populations in New York and Pennsylvania.
Conservation Status: Endangered (EN). The bog turtle is the only turtle protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act, and it is also listed as endangered in some states, including Maryland, North and South Carolina, Massachusetts, Georgia, and Connecticut. It has been protected under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species since 1975. Because of its very particular habitat requirements, loss of habitat and pollution are bigger issues for the bog turtle than for more adaptable species.
The bog turtle forages during the day. Males are likely to have a larger range and may dig themselves several burrows. Females are more likely to stay near a single burrow and use the same hole for a few years. Though the bog turtle is small and generally timid, it can be aggressive to other bog turtles when competing for food or territory. A male in particular is likely to push and bite any other male that intrudes on its home range, and sometimes injures or kill its opponent.
This turtle mates in springtime after hibernating. A female builds her nest in a relatively dry grassy or mossy spot, using her hind legs, and lays between one and six eggs. The eggs incubate for about two months, and overwinter in the nest in colder areas. Hatchlings emerge fully formed, but are not mature until they’re between four and 11 years old. A bog turtle buries itself in soft mud to hibernate, and usually stays in hibernation from about October until March.
Top land speed recorded: 0.00065 ft/s; (0.0002 m/s).
Water plants, seeds, leaves, berries, slugs, worms, insects and their larvae, and sometimes carrion.
Breeding interval: Annual
Hatching period: Aug-Sep
Average nest size: 4 eggs
Size at birth: 1 in (2.5 cm) long
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