Bog Turtles

bog turtle

Measuring only 3=4 inches long, bog turtles are the tiniest turtles in the US. Photo: Jonathan Mays


How come we have never heard of bog turtles? Yet they happen to live in our state.

Are you fascinated with turtles, especially the tiniest ones? So are we, especially with North America’s smallest one, the bog turtle. Measuring only 3-4 inches long, it can fit in the palm of your hand.

But you probably haven’t seen one in the wild. In the few places they live, they are generally buried in the mud or in winter, hibernating. So let’s learn more.


Where Do Bog Turtles Live?

bog turtle

Bog turtles only live in a few palces in the US


Well, they only live in small, isolated pockets in parts of the Eastern United States. And guess what? They make their homes in bogs and other swampy wetlands. Hence the name, bog turtle!

We had no idea these tiny turtles live in our area (Western NC) and are critically endangered. Wow.


bog turtles

Bog turtles and pitcher plants often live together in bogs. Illustration: Matt Patterson

So What Is A Bog?

So they live in bogs. But what exactly is a bog?

Think stagnant water in low lying areas with decaying (rotting) plant materials. Nice. And when you step in a bog, you know it immediately as your boots sink into the mud.

Bogs are important in controlling flooding and runoff, providing a place for excess water to accumulate. But more importantly, they store carbon from the atmosphere helping mitigate the effects of climate change (warmer temperatures). To learn more about bogs, read our blog Benefits of Bogs.

They Are Misunderstood

There are many false misconceptions about these incredible animals.

Myth 1: They make good pets. First of all, they are very timid and like to stay hidden, burrowed in mud most of the time. Second, it is illegal to buy, collect, or sell the turtles or their eggs. So no, they don’t make good pets.

Myth 2: Bog turtles have lots of baby turtles. Actually, they are very slow to reproduce with only 2-3 eggs laid each year.

bog turtles

A baby  hatching from an egg. Photo: Mike Knoerr



bog turtle

Bog turtles are flagship species. A what kind of species? Photo: Jonathan Mays


So Why Are They Important?

These cute little turtles eats lots of pesky insects along with slugs, small worms and even some vegetation. They in turn, and their eggs, are food for predators such as racoons, birds and snakes.

Plus they are a flagship species. Hmm. What kind of species?

Flagship species are ambassadors for their habitat. Bog turtles are so cute, they inspire folks to want to help save the turtles and therefore, save the bogs.

Their Biggest Threats?

Loss of habitat is the biggest threat to bog turtles. Bogs are disappearing at an alarming rate.

As land is developed, bogs are filled in so the turtles lose their homes. But the illegal pet trade also has a devastating effect.

bog turtle

Bogs are rapidly disappearing which leaves turtles without a home. Photo: Mike Knoerr

How Can You Help?

bog turtle

Females only lay 2-3 eggs a year. Photo: Mike Knoerr

Learn more about bogs and bog turtles and then share on social media. Most folks, Like us, have never heard of bog turtles so knowledge is power.

They are often sold as pets. Please help them by never buying one and discourage others from purchasing one.

If you have land that would make good habitat for turtles, talk to your local land preservation group or USFWS to see if the land can be protected. You never know until you ask.

Support conservation organizations that protect bogs or bog turtles or both. A few of the ones we support:

Defenders of Wildlife

Conserving Carolina

Zoo Knoxville

Learn More

bog turtle

Bog turtles are often sold illegally for pets. Photo: RosieWalunas/USFWS

A great blog by Mike Knoerr for Defenders of Wildlife: Hatching Hope in Mountain Bogs

Saving Our Rare and Beautiful Mountain Bogs, an in-depth look at the plants and animals that live in bogs by Conserving Carolina.

Bog Turtles: North Carolina Wildlife Profiles Learn more about these tiny turtles.



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