Wildlife & Habitat

W H 512 Hdr Pic a southern Appalachian mountain bog

Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge consists of a conservation easement on privately-owned property. In order to respect the wishes of the landowner, and protect sensitive habitat, the refuge is not open to the public. As the refuge grows and the Fish and Wildlife Service acquires full ownership of additional parcels, we will work to develop public use opportunities.

  • Bog Turtles

    Bog turtle

    Bog turtle, threatened - The bog turtle is the smallest turtle in North America, rarely exceeding three or four inches in length and weighing only about four ounces. Its orange to yellow patch on either side of the neck easily distinguishes it from other turtles.

    Bog turtles emerge from their muddy hibernation in early to mid-April and by early May are actively seeking a mate. Adults are sexually mature at five to eight years of age. In June or July, the female lays a clutch of one to six small white elliptical eggs in a shallow “nest” she digs in a clump of sphagnum moss or tuft of grass above the water line. After seven or eight weeks of being incubated by the sun, the inch-long hatchlings emerge. Because they are born so late in the year, the hatchlings often spend their first winter near the nest.

    The bog turtle was first described in 1801 and has never been known to be abundant. There are two major threats to its continued existence – habitat loss due to the draining and filling of wetlands for farming and development, including housing, roads, and golf courses; and the illegal collection of wild bog turtles for the pet trade. Invasive plants are often an issue at bog turtle sites as well.

  • Mountain sweet pitcher plant

    W H 150W Mountain sweet pitcherp_Sarracenia rubra ssp jonesii floweringt

    Mountain sweet pitcher plant, endangered - Mountain sweet pitcher plant is a carnivorous perennial herb with tall, hollow pitcher-shaped leaves and red flowers. The hollow leaves contain liquid and enzymes. When insects fall into the pitchers, they’re digested and the nutrients are incorporated into the plant’s tissues. The evolutionary role of carnivory in such plants is not fully understood, but some evidence indicates that absorption of minerals from insect prey may allow carnivorous species to compete in nutrient-poor habitats. The unusual red flowers (yellow in rare cases) appear from April to June, with fruits ripening in August. Flowering plants reach heights of 29 inches. Very little specific information is available on the biology of mountain sweet pitcher plant. Like other pitcher plants, it has rhizomes that are probably long-lived and capable of persisting and reproducing vegetatively for decades without producing seedlings.

    The most serious threat to mountain sweet pitcher plant is the destruction or degradation of its small wetland habitat, though collecting from wild populations is also a significant threat.

  • Bunched arrowhead

    W H 150W Bunched arrowhead

    Bunched arrowhead, endangered - Bunched arrowhead is a small herbaceous plant (15 to 16 inches tall) that grows in saturated soils. It’s the only Sagittaria species in the Southern Appalachians that does not have arrowhead-shaped leaves. Emergent leaves are broad and tapered at the tip and up to 12 inches long and one to two inches wide. The white flowers begin blooming in mid-May and continue through July. The fruits mature a few weeks after flowering.

    Bunched arrowhead is known from only two counties in the entire world, with eleven remaining populations across those two counties. The primary factor determining the rarity of bunched arrowhead is the current rarity of its required habitat. The seepage habitat in which bunched arrowhead occurs is extremely threatened, and remaining bunched arrowhead populations are threatened by residential and industrial development, conversion to pasture, and invasive exotic species.

  • More Wildlife and Habitat

    W H 150 W Turkeys credit Steve Maslowski

    Mountain bogs are among the rarest and most imperiled habitats in the United States. They’re typically small and widely scattered across the landscape, often isolated from other wetlands.

    These areas are recognized hotspots for biodiversity and contain numerous rare and declining plant and animal species. Seventeen bog species are either federally listed under the Endangered Species Act or are species of conservation concern. Additionally mountain bogs offer essential feeding, wintering and nesting habitat for numerous migratory bird species of national or regional conservation concern.

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