The Plight of North America's Tiniest Turtle

bog turtle photo

Photo: Julie Larsen Maher

It's called the bog turtle and it's North America's tiniest turtle. It reaches a maximum length of 4.5 inches. The bog turtle's federal status is threatened but in states like New York, the turtle is endangered. Under federal regulations, "it is unlawful to sell, trade, barter, possess, import, export, catch, take, or kill bog turtles," because of their current status. But even still, the plight of the bog turtle is bleak because of habitat encroachment and poaching. Lately, the bog turtle has been suffering an even higher mortality rate which has motivated environmental organizations like the Wildlife Conservation Society, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to step in and figure out why.
This team of bog turtle experts is doing health assessments on the species to figure out what's making them sick.

"We're conducting a broad screening in order to identify a cause or causes for the increase in bog turtle deaths," said Dr. Bonnie Raphael, WCS's Department Head for Wildlife Medicine. "This information will be used to help determine if these recent losses are attributable to infectious disease, environmental perturbations, or other factors."

bog turtle size photo

Photo: Julie Larsen Maher

Let's hope for an expedient answer so we can work to save these guys. We'll also have to address other factors that have led to a disappearing bog turtle population. While their adorable appearance makes you want to protect them it also makes them a vulnerable target to the black market pet trade. Though illegal, it still goes on.

Urban sprawl in the Northeast including Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania have also invaded their habitats which are marshy meadows and fields. What's so sad is that if allowed to thrive, bog turtles are long lived. They reach reproductive age around 5 years old and can live between 20 and 30 years when healthy. Let's work to protect them while we still can.

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