Photographer: Alexis Grant


The bog turtle, Clemmys muhlenbergii , is the smallest of the four species of the genus Clemmys and one of the rarest. They are characterized by their small size (maximum shell length of 4.25 inches) and the large patches of yellow or orange on both sides of the head. Omnivores, they generally feed on berries and insects, which are ample in their preferred habitat, wetlands that are spring-fed with saturated soils and small amounts of running water.

Also known as the Muhelenburg turtle, after Reverend Heinreich Muhelnberg who discovered them, the bog turtle’s life span is estimated to be in excess of 40 years, reaching their sexual maturity at 6-8 years old. This cold-blooded creature hibernates for six months from mid-autumn to early spring and becomes active in late April to early June.

These reptiles are scattered throughout the Atlantic seaboard from southwest Massachusetts to southwest North Carolina and are protected almost in every state they occupy. Presently, the bog turtle is on the Federal Endangered Species List and is listed as "Threatened" for the northern population (CT, DE, MA, MD, NJ, NY, and PA) and "Threatened due to similarity of appearance" for the southern population (GA, NC, SC, TN, and VA). These turtles are threatened due to several reasons including predators (raccoons, skunks, dogs, foxes, etc), the urbanization of their natural habitats, and for use in the pet trade.

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