November 5, 1997
For further information, contact
Diana M. Hawkins or
Vicki M. Boatwright


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is extending Endangered Species Act protection to conserve the northern population of the bog turtle, which has seriously declined in the northeast United States. According to the Service's Southeast Regional Director Sam Hamilton, "Endangered Species Act protection will provide an opportunity to recover the northern population of the bog turtle and protect the southern population which has been designated as "threatened (due to similarity of appearance)."

The northern population of the bog turtle, that ranges from New York and Massachusetts south to Maryland, is designated as threatened. The southern population of the bog turtle, ranging from southern Virginia to northern Georgia, is also protected with a threatened designation because its physical appearance is similar to the northern population, Hamilton said. A species qualifies for threatened protection under the Act if it is likely to become endangered.
Bog turtle

An endangered species is likely to become extinct within the foreseeable future. The Service's decision to list the bog turtle as a threatened species was published in the Federal Register,November 4, 1997.

Currently, bog turtles (Clemmys muhlenbergii) are known to remain at fewer than 200 sites in their northern range. Based on site habitat quality, only 35 of the 176 sites assessed may be capable of supporting healthy bog turtle populations into the future unless measures are taken to protect, maintain and restore bog turtle habitat.

The southern bog turtle population, Hamilton said, is separated from the northern population by approximately 250 miles. However, individual bog turtles in the southern population closely resemble individuals in the northern bog turtle population, causing difficulty in enforcing prohibitions protecting the northern population. Therefore, the Service is designating the southern population as "threatened (similarity of appearance)." This designation prohibits collecting individual turtles from this population and bans interstate and international commercial trade. It has no effect on land management activities of private landowners in southern states where the bog turtle lives.

The northern population of the bog turtle has declined by 50 percent, mostly within the past 20 years. Illegal collection, primarily for the national and international pet trade, as well as loss and modification of the bog turtle's wetland habitat, have resulted in a reduction of the species' range and a decline in the size of the remaining population.

Bog turtles are highly prized in the pet trade, bringing high prices from collectors and dealers, according to Hamilton. With the new threatened designation, collection and other activities such as habitat destruction or degradation, and interstate sale, export or import of bog turtles are prohibited by the Act.

Because most bog turtle habitat is on private land, Hamilton said representatives of the Service, state wildlife agencies and conservation groups will work cooperatively with private landowners. Hamilton said permits for activities such as wetland filling and draining are already required; therefore, he said, the Service will make every effort to work with landowners on alternatives that will protect the turtles. The Service is not designating critical habitat for the bog turtle because such designation can potentially increase illegal collection.

Since 1975, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has monitored international trade in bog turtles, requiring permits for legal trade. However, significant illegal trade in bog turtles exists.

Bog turtles are easily distinguished from other turtles by the large, conspicuous bright orange, yellow or red blotch found on each side of the head. Adult bog turtle shells are 3 to 4-1/2 inches in length and range in color from light brown to ebony.

People who legally possess bog turtles are allowed to retain the turtles. All seven states in its northern range and all five states in its southern range provide varying degrees of protection for the bog turtle. Several agencies and organizations support Endangered Species Act protection for the bog turtle, including state wildlife agencies in Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

For additional information, contact:
Carole Copeyon
Pennsylvania Field Office
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
315 South Allen Street, Suite 322
State College, Pennsylvania 16801
(814) 234-4090


Release #: R97-97

1997 News Releases

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