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What is the Bog Turtle?

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  • Written By: Steve R.
  • Edited By: S. Pike
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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The bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) holds the distinction of being the smallest turtle in North America. An adult typically is 4 inches (10 centimeters) long and tips the scales at 4 ounces (110 grams). Located mostly along the Atlantic seaboard in the United States, the reptile has a life span of more than 40 years and lives in wet areas including bogs, marshes, swamps, and streams. Development of its habitat has diminished the turtle’s population and the animal is protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Mostly dark in color, the bog turtle is known for the distinct markings along its neck. Near the eye and on the side of its head, the turtle possesses a vividly colored spot. Blotches may be orange, yellow, or red, or a combination of colors. The colored markings become brighter as the bog turtle ages.

Bog turtles can be found in the Northeast United States, in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. To the south, colonies of the turtles reside in Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. In its habitat, the omnivorous creature feeds on insects including crickets, beetles, and millipedes. The turtle's diet also may include some plants such as skunk cabbage and duck weed. In addition, the turtle may eat frogs, tadpoles, snails, salamanders, crayfish, and nestling birds.

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Being a cold-blooded animal, the turtle is more active during the day, particularly early in the morning or in the late afternoon. During the warm summer months, during the hottest part of the day, the turtles may seek cover in a burrow or at the bottom of shallow water. During the winter months, they hibernate in underwater bogs that may be up to 18 inches (around 45 centimeters) deep. Oftentimes bog turtles will hibernate as a group — even with other species of turtles.

Predators of the bog turtle include foxes, raccoons, water snakes, dogs, muskrats, and large birds. To protect itself, the turtle may hide itself in mud. Turtles are also illegally hunted as pets. Other threats to the turtle include the draining and filling of the creatures' wetland habitat.

By the time they are 8 years old, bog turtles are usually sexually mature and generally in early spring after hibernation, the turtles will mate. A male usually tries to find a mate by nudging or nipping at a female. A female will lay up to five small white eggs in sunny spots. Eggs may take up to two months to hatch. When born, turtles measure about 1 inch (2.4 centimeters) long.

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