The Bog Turtle was federally listed as a threatened species in 1997.
At only about 4 inches long, the Bog Turtle is one of North America’s smallest Turtles. This species typically shows a bright yellow, orange, or red blotch on each side of the head. The nearly parallel sides of the upper shell (carapace) give Bog Turtles an oblong appearance when viewed from above. These small, semi-aquatic Turtles consume a varied diet including insects, snails, worms, seeds, and carrion.
Photo by Richard C. Back.
Bog Turtles usually occur in small, discrete populations, generally occupying open-canopy, herbaceous sedge meadows and fens bordered by wooded areas. These wetlands are a mosaic of micro-habitats that include dry pockets, saturated areas, and areas that are periodically flooded. Bog Turtles depend upon this diversity of micro-habitats for foraging, nesting, basking, hibernating, and sheltering. Unfragmented riparian (river) systems that are sufficiently dynamic to allow the natural creation of open habitat are needed to compensate for ecological succession. Beaver, deer, and cattle may be instrumental in maintaining the open-canopy wetlands essential for this species’ survival.
Bog Turtles inhabit open, unpolluted emergent and scrub/shrub wetlands such as shallow spring-fed fens, sphagnum bogs, swamps, marshy meadows, and wet pastures. These habitats are characterized by soft muddy bottoms, interspersed wet and dry pockets, vegetation dominated by low grasses and sedges, and a low volume of standing or slow-moving water which often forms a network of shallow pools and rivulets. Bog Turtles prefer areas with ample sunlight, high evaporation rates, high humidity in the near-ground microclimate, and perennial saturation of portions of the ground. Eggs are often laid in elevated areas, such as the tops of tussocks. Bog Turtles generally retreat into more densely vegetated areas to hibernate from mid-September through mid-April.
The greatest threats to the Bog Turtle are the loss, degradation, and fragmentation of its habitat from wetland alteration, development, pollution, invasive species, and natural vegetational succession. The species is also threatened by collection for illegal wildlife trade.
Distribution in New York
Species Range: The northern population of Bog Turtles ranges from New York and western Massachusetts south to Maryland. Disjunct populations, some of which are extirpated, have been reported from western Pennsylvania and the Lake George and Finger Lakes regions of New York. The southern population, which occurs in the Appalachian Mountains from Virginia to Georgia, is listed as threatened due to similarity of appearance to the northern population. There is a 250-mile gap in the species' current known distribution from northeastern Maryland to southern Virginia.
Species Range by County
Albany, Cayuga, Columbia, Dutchess, Genesee, Monroe, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orange, Orleans, Oswego, Otsego, Putnam, Rockland, Seneca, Sullivan, Tompkins, Ulster, Warren, Wayne, Westchester.
See Federally Listed Species Occurrences by County [PDF].
Recovery Plan [7.9 MB pdf]
Recovery Units (pdf)
Spotlight Species Action Plan (pdf)
Natural Resource Conservation Service Working Lands for Wildlife Program
Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
NYSDEC Landowner Incentive Program - Bog Turtle Habitat Protection Program
What to Do if this Species Occurs on your Property or Project Site
- Contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service early in planning for any project or activity that may affect the Bog Turtle or its habitat. See New York Field Office Procedures for Project Reviews and Technical Assistance for instructions. Through the technical assistance or Project Reviews processes of the Endangered Species Act, the Service will provide project-specific recommendations to avoid or minimize adverse effects to listed species.
- Individual landowners with suitable habitat can also contact the Service for site-specific, proactive conservation recommendations. In addition, technical and/or material assistance may be available through various State and or Federal programs to restore or maintain Bog Turtle habitat. Most land in New York is privately owned. Voluntary conservation efforts by New York's residents are critical in the conservation and recovery of threatened and endangered species.
- Also see "Endangered Species and You" Frequently Asked Questions.
Protocols/Best Management Practices