Pennsylvania Field Office
Northeast Region

Bog Turtle
Life History and Biology

Bog turtle Clemmys (Glyptemys) muhlenbergii

STATUS: Threatened

DESCRIPTION: The bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) is Pennsylvania's smallest turtle,growing to about 4 inches in length. Its most distinguishing feature is the large orange (yellow or red) blotches on each side of the head. The shell and body are a dark brown with no distinctive markings except a keeled carapace.

RANGE AND POPULATION LEVEL: Bog turtles live in spring fed meadows and bogs where tussock sedge and grasses dominate the wetlands. They require open conditions associated with early-successional wetland habitats. The substrate must consist of deep mucky soils fed by groundwater seeps, with only modest amounts of open water. If any of these conditions change, the population can decline and may eventually disappear from the area.

HABITAT: Bog turtle wetlands are typically spring-fed with shallow surface water or saturated soils present year-round, although in summer the wet area(s) may be restricted to near spring head(s). They need soft deep mucky soils for hibernation and thermoregulation. Vegetation such as low grasses and sedges (in emergent wetlands), often with a scrub-shrub wetland component provide nesting areas and cover.

REASONS FOR CURRENT STATUS: Habitat loss and habitat fragmentation from development and succession are major factors in the decline of this species.

Recovery Plan
(pdf 7.68MB)
Bog Turtle Habitat Restoration: NRCS Biological Opinion
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Species Information
Last updated: May 4, 2011
All images by FWS unless otherwise noted.