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Bog Turtle (Clemmys muhlenbergii)

Muhlenberg Turtle


I. Physical Characteristics

a. Size

i. Smallest turtle in New York - chipmunk sized
ii. Maximum (though abnormal) length 4 ½ inches

b. Markings

i. Bright yellow/orange blotch on each side of head and neck
ii. Body color is dark mahogany
iii. Orange-red on inside of legs
iv. Sometimes sunburst pattern of brown on scutes

c. Carapace (upper shell) 

i. Domed
ii. Rectangular
iii. Rings on scutes 
iv. Older turtles may have a smooth carapace due to burrowing over the years

d. Plastron (lower shell)

i. Hinge-less
ii. Cream and black blotches
iii. Male - concave
iv. Female - flat

II. Habitat and Lifestyle

a. Semi-aquatic species
b. Wet, boggy, mucky areas
c. Ectothermic species, so require plenty of sun
d. Hibernation

i. During the winter
ii. Frequently hibernate communally
iii. Emerge in Spring - temperature of air and water must be greater than 50oF

III. Reproduction

a. Sexual maturity between 8 and 11 years
b. Two to four eggs laid in early to mid June
c. Eggs hatch around mid-September

IV. Food

a. Opportunistic feeder - eat whatever they can find
b. Prefer invertebrates - worms, slugs, and insects
c. Plants - seeds, leaves, and carrion

V. Decline

a. Endangered in New York State
b. Threatened Federally
c. Degradation of habitat

i. Human intervention
1. Developments and roads
2. Reservoir construction
3. Pollution

a. Agricultural run-off
b. Industrial discharge
c. Pesticides

ii. Nature

1. Cyclic filling-in of wetlands (succession)
2. Invasion by plants

a. Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
b. Reed (Phragmites australis)
c. Illegal collecting

i. Particularly valuable in Europe
ii. Cute and rare so high demand as a pet
iii. Have even been uncovered at JFK airport where they were being illegally exported

e. Natural predators

i. Skunks
ii. Foxes
iii. Raccoons
iv. Bullfrogs
v. Blue herons
vi. Muskrats

f. Contamination of food chain - generally pesticides

VI. Preventing Extinction

a. Landowners of boggy areas are key in species protection
b. Research is being done on breeding and raising them in captivity then releasing into the wild; however, they cannot survive if habitat is lost

VII. Where to Find Them

a. Eastern United States
b. Mid-Hudson River Valley is home to several colonies, especially Orange and Dutchess Counties