Polk County’s most wanted-animal, the Bog Turtle

Published 4:17 pm Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bog Turtle. (photo submitted)

In an effort to expand the knowledge and understanding of the flora and fauna of Polk County, the Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC) and botanist, David Campbell need your help in locating this month’s “Most Wanted-Animal.”

While PAC is interested in “Polk County’s Most Wanted-Plants,” at times, especially during the winter months, PAC may highlight “Polk County’s Most Wanted-Animal,” or habitat that supports that animal.

This month, PAC needs your help locating a special habitat that may be suitable for the Bog Turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergi).  In the southeast, the Bog Turtle occurs in the mountains and upper Piedmont of the Carolinas and Virginia, and very small portions of Georgia and Tennessee.  Bog Turtles, the smallest turtle in the United States (adults are 3’’-4’’), are shy, secretive animals that are widely scattered.  They inhabit a range of wet habitats with emergent vegetation, preferring cool, clear, shallow, slow-moving, muddy bottomed streams that run through meadows, in swamps and in sphagnum bogs.  Other habitats include damp grassy fields with mucky soils and marshes. Because they require open habitats, cattle grazing and fire have benefited the species.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Bog Turtles can be hard to find.  Besides their small size, they spend much of their time buried in the mud, making them even more elusive.  Sometimes, however, these turtles can be seen basking on clumps of vegetation near the wet areas.  A key to their identification is a bright orange to yellow blotch on either side of the head and neck.

Bog Turtles have been found in numerous counties around Polk County, but as far as we know, none have ever been found in Polk. This species is listed as a threatened species both in the state of North Carolina and by the federal government. Major threats to the species are habitat destruction, fragmentation, and the pet trade (it is illegal to possess bog turtles without a permit).