- (Schoepff, 1801)
Other English Common Names: bog turtle
Clemmys muhlenbergii (Schoepff, 1801)
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s):
Glyptemys muhlenbergii (Schoepff, 1801) (TSN 668670)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.101495
Element Code: ARAAD02040
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates
Genus Size: B - Very small genus (2-5 species)
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Concept Reference: King, F. W., and R. L. Burke, editors. 1989. Crocodilian, tuatara, and turtle species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Association of Systematics Collections, Washington, D.C. 216 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B89KIN01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Clemmys muhlenbergii
Taxonomic Comments: Apparently there are discrete northern and southern populations, but it is not known whether there are genetic differences between the two; further research is needed.
Molecular data and morphological evidence indicate that the genus Clemmys (sensu McDowell 1964) is paraphyletic (see Bickham et al. 1996, Holman and Fritz 2001, Feldman and Parham 2002). Based on morphological data, Holman and Fritz (2001) split Clemmys as follows: Clemmys guttata was retained as the only member of the genus; Clemmys insculpta and C. muhlenbergii were placed in the genus Glyptemys (as first reviser, Holman and Fritz gave Glyptemys Agassiz, 1857, precedence over the simultaneously published genus Calemys Agassiz, 1857); and Clemmys marmorata was transferred to the monotypic genus Actinemys.
Genetic data support the basic features of this arrangement. An analysis of emydid relationships based on molecular data (Feldman and Parham 2002) identified four well-supported clades: Terrapene; Clemmys guttata; C. insculpta and C. muhlenbergii; and Clemmys marmorata, Emys orbicularis, and Emydoidea blandingii. Feldman and Parham retained Clemmys guttata as the only member of that genus; regarded Clemmys marmorata, Emys orbicularis, and Emydoidea blandingii as congeneric (in the genus Emys, which has priority); and placed C. insculpta and C. muhlenbergii in the genus Calemys. However, Feldman and Parham were unaware that Holman and Fritz (2001) had given Glyptemys precedence over Calemys, so the correct generic name for these turtles under the arrangement of Feldman and Parham is Glyptemys. In contrast to Holman and Fritz (2001), Feldman and Parham (2002) argued that placing Clemmys marmorata in the monotypic genus Actinemys would unnecessarily obscure its phylogenetic relationships, and they recommended that marmorata be included in the genus Emys.
See also McDowell (1964), Merkle (1975), Lovich et al. (1991), and Bickham et al. (1996) for information on relationships among turtles of the genus Clemmys (sensu lato).
Global Status: G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 02May2005
Global Status Last Changed: 21Oct1996
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: Ranges from New York and southwestern New England discontinuously to extreme northern Georgia; not nearly as rare as once thought (100-200 sites), but nonetheless uncommon and adversely affected by continual habitat destruction/overcollection; many occurrences do not represent viable populations.
Nation: United States
National Status: N3
U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Connecticut (S1), Delaware (S1), District of Columbia (SX), Georgia (S1), Maryland (S2), Massachusetts (S1), New Jersey (S1), New York (S2), North Carolina (S2), Pennsylvania (S2), South Carolina (S1), Tennessee (S1), Virginia (S2)
U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LT, SAT: Listed threatened,listed threatened because of similar appearance (new)
Comments on USESA: USFWS (1997) listed the northern population (New York and Massachusetts to Maryland and Delaware) as Threatened and the southern population (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia) as Threatened due to similarity of appearance. Name used for listing is Clemmys muhlenbergii.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R5 - Northeast
IUCN Red List Category: CR - Critically endangered
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Protection Status (CITES): Appendix I
NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors
Range Extent: 20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Discontinuous, spotty distribution; New York (including remnant population at two sites in the Finger Lakes region), western Massachusetts, and western Connecticut southward to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and northern Delaware; southeastern Virginia through western and central North Carolina and extreme eastern Tennessee to western South Carolina and Georgia (Herpetol. Rev. 14:55). Large hiatus of about 250 miles between the northern populations and the southern populations. In the north, Maryland has the largest number of occurrences and turtles; only about 20 populations thought to be viable exist outside Maryland and New Jersey. In the south, most occurrences and turtles are in North Carolina and Virginia (only a few viable populations elsewhere). Sea level to 1280 m in the Appalachians; usually below 245 m in the north. Most populations occur on private property. Extirpated in western Pennsylvania and in the Lake George region of New York.
Area of Occupancy: 126-12,500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments: Estimated, uncertain.
Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: In the northern segment of the range, currently known from 360 sites (5 in Connecticut, 4 in Delaware, 71 in Maryland, 3 in Massachusetts, 165 in New Jersey, 37 in New York, and 75 in Pennsylvania). Some of these are parts of larger occurrences, so the number of distinct occurrences is less than the number of sites. See USFWS (1997, 2000) for information on status in each state in the northern part of the range.
Population Size: 2500 - 100,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Southern population, based on known sites, has been estimated at about 2500-4000; inclusion of potential occurrences in apparently suitable habitat brings the estimate up to about 4000-6000. Most populations are small. Cryptic, hard to find even when present in good numbers; easily overlooked (Collins 1990).
Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Unknown
Overall Threat Impact: High
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Spotty distribution and specialized habitat requirements make this species vulnerable to local extirpation. Decline is due primarily to loss, degradation, and fragmentation of habitat (the factor ranked here) and excessive (and illegal) collecting for the pet trade. These continue to be major threats. Laws against collecting have been largely ineffective in reducing that threat.
Habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation have resulted from urban/suburban development; filling, draining, and dredging of wetlands; and water impoundment, water diversion into habitat, and other hydrological alterations. In some areas, successional changes (e.g., reforestation) and exotic plant species have reduced habitat quality (Morrow et al. 2001). Heavy grazing is detrimental, especially when nesting females are disturbed or eggs are trampled (light grazing may be beneficial in some cases if it maintains an open canopy and avoid the problems just mentioned) (Morrow et al. 2001). Habitat fragmentation has made it difficult for turtles to cope with successional changes and ecosystem changes caused by humans or beavers (simply moving to another area is now often not an option). Though flooding caused by beavers may be a threat in particular sites at a particular time, over the long term and on a broad geographic scale, beaver activities (i.e., cutting of woody plants and periodic flooding) can be an important factors in the creation or maintenance of suitable habitat for bog turtles.
Mosquito control via pesticide application is a potential threat is some areas; this may impact turtles directly or affect food supply.
Abnormally high raccoon populations, associated with human impacts, may result in excessive predation on turtles and eggs.
Eggs are susceptible to trampling by humans walking through the habitat. Frequent human visits to single sites conceivably could interfere with the turtles' basking behavior and may disturb females attempting to nest.
The species is vulnerable to the usual problems associated with small population size.
See USFWS (1997) for further information.
Short-term Trend: Decline of 10-50%
Short-term Trend Comments: Northern population has declined by at least 50% over the past 20 years (USFWS 1997, 2000). The species is apparently extirpated in the majority of historical sites in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York, and nearly half of the historic occurrences in Maryland have been extirpated; most losses have occurred since the 1970s. Trend in abundance is unknown in most areas due to inadequate demographic information. Rangewide, it seems likely that there has been at least a 30% reduction in population size over the past three generations.
Long-term Trend: Decline of 30-70%
Intrinsic Vulnerability: Highly to moderately vulnerable.
Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Low fecundity and high mortality rate of young make populations slow to recover from population losses.
Environmental Specificity: Very narrow. Specialist or community with key requirements scarce.
Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information
Inventory Needs: Reverify historical sites and search for new sites; should be many more new sites (e.g., in southeast Pennsylvania). Much habitat in the southern part of the range (especially North Carolina) needs to be inventoried. Population sizes need to be determined for many sites.
Protection Needs: Protect at least 1-2 sites in each state. Promote laws/regulations and law enforcement that will protect wetlands and discourage collecting. Maintain tight data security regarding occurrences.
A draft recovery plan became available in September 2000 (USFWS 2000).
(20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles))
Discontinuous, spotty distribution; New York (including remnant population at two sites in the Finger Lakes region), western Massachusetts, and western Connecticut southward to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and northern Delaware; southeastern Virginia through western and central North Carolina and extreme eastern Tennessee to western South Carolina and Georgia (Herpetol. Rev. 14:55). Large hiatus of about 250 miles between the northern populations and the southern populations. In the north, Maryland has the largest number of occurrences and turtles; only about 20 populations thought to be viable exist outside Maryland and New Jersey. In the south, most occurrences and turtles are in North Carolina and Virginia (only a few viable populations elsewhere). Sea level to 1280 m in the Appalachians; usually below 245 m in the north. Most populations occur on private property. Extirpated in western Pennsylvania and in the Lake George region of New York.
U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Endemism: endemic to a single nation
U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
CT, DC, DE, GA, MA, MD, NC, NJ, NY, PA, SC, TN, VA
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted.
For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.
Range Map Compilers: NatureServe 2008
U.S. Distribution by County
||County Name (FIPS Code)
New Haven (09009)*
New Castle (10003)
Baltimore County (24005),
Cape May (34009)*,
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed
||Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
Middle Hudson (02020006)+,
Lower Hudson (02030101)+,
Sandy Hook-Staten Island (02030104)+,
Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead (02040104)+,
Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (02040105)+,
Lower Delaware (02040202)+,
Great Egg Harbor (02040302)+*,
Upper Susquehanna (02050101)+*,
Lower Susquehanna-Swatara (02050305)+,
Lower Susquehanna (02050306)+,
Upper Dan (03010103)+,
Upper Yadkin (03040101)+,
South Yadkin (03040102)+,
Rocky, North Carolina, (03040105)+*,
Upper Catawba (03050101)+,
South Fork Catawba (03050102)+,
Upper Broad (03050105)+,
Lower Genesee (04130003)+,
Lake Champlain (04150408)+*
Middle Allegheny-Tionesta (05010003)+*,
Upper New (05050001)+
South Fork Holston (06010102)+,
Upper French Broad (06010105)+,
Upper Little Tennessee (06010202)+,
Lower Little Tennessee (06010204)+,
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: A small turtle.
General Description: Carapace is light brown to black (may have yellowish or reddish areas on large scutes), strongly sculptured with growth lines, and has an inconspicuous keel; plastron is mainly dark brown to black; head is brown, with a large yellow or orange (sometimes red) blotch above and behind the tympanum (blotch may be divided); adult carapace length usually is 7.5-9 cm (up to 11.5 cm); hatchling carapace is 2.5-3.2 cm; male vent is posterior to the rear edge of the carapace and the plastron is concave (flat in female) (Ernst and Barbour 1989, Conant and Collins 1991).
Diagnostic Characteristics: Differs from the spotted turtle (a few of which lack yellow dots on the carapace) by having a large orange patch on each side of the head rather than many small yellow or orange spots on the head and neck; also, the bog turtle has prominent growth lines on the carapace (most, but not all, spotted turtles have a smooth carapace).
Reproduction Comments: Mating occurs from late April to early June. Lays clutch of 1-6 (usually 3-5) eggs in May, June, or July (occasionally August). Eggs hatch in about 6-9 weeks, late July to early September. In the north, hatchlings may not emerge from the nest until October or they may overwinter in the nest. Sexually mature in 5-8 years. Not all adult females produce clutches annually. No evidence of multiple clutches wihtin a single season.
Ecology Comments: Home range size averaged 1.3 ha in Pennsylvania, where the longest distance moved by any individual was 225 m (see Bury 1979). Home range was 0.04-ha to 0.24 ha in Maryland (Chase et al. 1989). Home range size averaged 0.52 ha (median 0.35 ha, range 0.02-2.26 ha, minimum convex polygon) in Virginia (Carter et al. 1999). Long-distance movements between wetlands were infrequently observed in southwestern Virginia (Carter et al. 2000). In North Carolina over somewhat less than 1 year, distances between relocations of radio-tagged turtles was 0-87 m (mean 24 m) for males, 0-62 m (mean 16 m) for females (Herman and Fahey 1992).
Population density may exceed 110/ha in some areas (see Ernst and Barbour 1972). In Maryland, population density was 7-213/ha of wetland habitat; average was 44 individuals per site at 9 sites (Chase et al. 1989). Searches of suitable habitat in North Carolina and Delaware yielded 1 bog turtle per 1.8 to 4.2 hours of search (see Bury 1979). In Pennsylvania, patches of suitable habitat had 3 to 300 individuals, mostly around 30 (see Mitchell 1991).
In the northern half of the range, other turtles most likely to occur in bog turtle habitat include the spotted turtle, painted turtle, and wood turtle.
Eggs, young, and adults are preyed on by various Carnivora, opossums, and some wading birds. Juveniles are very secretive.
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: May migrate about 200 m between winter hibernation site and upstream summer range in some areas (Ernst and Barbour 1972). Hibernating juveniles were found in a nesting area in New Jersey (Ernst et al. 1989).
Riverine Habitat(s): SPRING/SPRING BROOK
Palustrine Habitat(s): Bog/fen, HERBACEOUS WETLAND, Riparian, SCRUB-SHRUB WETLAND
Special Habitat Factors: Burrowing in or using soil
Habitat Comments: Bog turtles inhabit slow, shallow, muck-bottomed rivulets of sphagnum bogs, calcareous fens, marshy/sedge-tussock meadows, spring seeps, wet cow pastures, and shrub swamps; the habitat usually contains an abundance of sedges or mossy cover. The turtles depend on a mosaic of microhabitats for foraging, nesting, basking, hibernation, and shelter (USFWS 2000). "Unfragmented riparian systems that are sufficiently dynamic to allow the natural creation of open habitat are needed to compensate for ecological succession" (USFWS 2000). Beaver, deer, and cattle may be instrumental in maintaining the essential open-canopy wetlands (USFWS 2000).
Bog turtles commonly bask on tussocks in the morning in spring and early summer. They burrow into soft substrate of waterways, crawls under sedge tussocks, or enter muskrat burrows during periods of inactivity in summer (see Bury 1979).
In Pennsylvania, bog turtles hibernated mainly in water and mud in muskrat burrows, and in mud bottom of marsh rivulets under 5-15 cm of water.
In New Jersey, hibernacula were in subterranean rivulets or seepage areas where water flowed continuously from underground springs; turtles were under 5-55 cm of water and mud (see Ernst et al.  for further details).
In Maryland, larger population sizes were associated with sites with the following characteristics: circular basin with spring-fed pockets of shallow water, bottom substrate of soft mud and rock, dominant vegetation of low grasses and sedges, and interspersed wet and dry pockets; winter retreats were shallow, just below upper surface of frozen mud and/or ice (Chase et al. 1989). Studies in Maryland and Pennsylvania noted use of the lower portion of wetlands for overwintering.
In Virginia, selected habitats included wet meadow, smooth alder edge, and bulrush; dry meadow and streams were avoided (Carter et al. 1999).
Nests are in open and elevated ground in areas of moss, sedges, or moist earth (see Bury 1979). The turtles dig a shallow nest or lay eggs in the top of a sedge tussock.
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Feeds opportunistically on insects, worms, slugs, crayfish, snails, and other small invertebrates; also amphibian larvae and fruits. Diet generally is dominated by insects. Apparently forages on land and in water (Bury 1979).
Adult Phenology: Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates
Immature Phenology: Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: Most activity occurs from mid-April to late September in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In some areas, including Pennsylvania and Delaware, there is an apparent peak in activity in May (see Bury 1979). Reportedly may estivate or at least reduce activity to a small area during hot summer periods (especially July-August). In North Carolina, radiotelemetry showed that turtles remained active through summer and fall whereas hand captures indicated primarily vernal activity (Herman and Fahey 1992). In Maryland, movement into and out of retreats was noted from November through March (Chase et al. 1989). Active during daylight hours, mostly from mid-morning to late afternoon or early evening. More active on cloudy days than on bright sunny days (Mitchell 1991). In early spring, activity occurs mainly at midday and in the afternoon; most active in the morning in late spring and summer (Mitchell 1991).
Length: 9 centimeters
Economic Comments: Historically has had a high commercial value, especially in Europe.
Stewardship Overview: This species would benefit from acquisition and appropriate management of suitable wetland complexes. Selective cutting, burning (if possible), periodic mowing, and grazing (e.g., Morrow et al. 2001) may be appropriate management techniques for maintaining habitat. Removal of alder and coarse meadow grasses can be beneficial; this could be accomplished by hand or by controlled fire (Mitchell 1991). Education of land owners and law enforcement officials will help deter illegal collecting (Mitchell 1991). Locations of populations should be revealed only to enhance protection or bonafide research.
Management Requirements: See USFWS (2000) for recently developed recovery criteria and management needs.
Monitoring Requirements: See Eckler et al. (1990) for information on use of radio telemetry.
Management Research Needs: Conservation success may be improved if determinants of successful dispersal between populations can be identified (Carter et al. 2000).
Biological Research Needs: Determine long-term viability of small, localized populations. Obtain information on movements (e.g., home range, dispersal, movements among different sites within a wetland complex). Determine how best to control invasive alien plants that may degrade habitat.
Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Mapping Guidance: Occurrences should include known nesting areas and documented upland travel corridors, if any.
Separation Barriers: Heavily traveled road or road with barriers such that turtles rarely if ever cross successfully; impoundment; untraversable topography (e.g., cliff); river of third order or higher; urban development lacking suitable wetlands.
Alternate Separation Procedure:
Separation distance across continuous or mostly continuous suitable wetlands: 3 km. Separation distance for continuous upland habitat: 1.5 km. Separation distance for intermediate or mosaic upland-wetland habitat: 2 km. Palustrine wetland systems are considered suitable wetlands.
Separation Justification: Bog turtles rarely leave wetland habitats, although recent radio-telemetry evidence indicates that bog turtles sometimes venture into and across upland habitats (375 m, Carter 1997) and cross roads to reach adjacent wetlands (Morrow et al. 2001). Whitlock (unpublished data) also documented individuals regularly moving back and forth across 1 km of atypical wetland habitat to more suitable habitat patches. Successful movement across developed areas is probably negligible, due to susceptibility to collection, predation, and road mortality.
Home ranges are small. In Virginia, home range size averaged 0.52 ha (median 0.35 ha, range 0.02-2.26 ha, minimum convex polygon) (Carter et al. 1999). Long-distance movements between wetlands were infrequently observed (Carter et al. 2000), though Carter (1997) recorded a bog turtle moving up to 2.7 km from previously documented areas.
Home range size averaged 1.3 ha in Pennsylvania, where the longest distance moved by any individual was 225 m (see Bury 1979). Home range was 0.04-ha to 0.24 ha in Maryland (Chase et al. 1989). In the same area, Morrow et al. (2001) recorded home range sizes of 0.003 to 3.12 ha (95% Adaptive Kernel method); expansion of multiflora rose with cessation of animal grazing probably contributed to the increase in home range size. In North Carolina over somewhat less than 1 year, distances between relocations of radio-tagged turtles was 0-87 m (mean 24 m) for males, 0-62 m (mean 16 m) for females (Herman and Fahey 1992).
The different separation distances are based on the likelihood that upland habitat inhibits movement more so than does aquatic or wetland habitat.
Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .2 km
Author: Whitlock, A., and G. Hammerson
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 07Apr2011
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Wilkinson, A. M., G. Hammerson, and L. Master
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 04Feb2005
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.
Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of
natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).
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- Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979. The Audubon Society field guide to North American reptiles and amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 719 pp.
- Bickham, J. W., T. Lamb, P. Minx, and J. C. Patton. 1996. Molecular systematics of the genus Clemmys and the intergeneric relationships of emydid turtles. Herpetologica 52:89-97.
- Bury, R. B. 1979. Review of the ecology and conservation of the bog turtle, CLEMMYS MUHLENBERGII. USFWS Spec. Sci. Rep.--Wildl. 219:1-9.
- Carter, S. L., C. A. Haas, and J. C. Mitchell. 1999. Home range and habitat selection of bog turtles in southwestern Virginia. Journal of Wildlife Management 63:853-860.
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- Chase, J. D., et al. 1989. Habitat characteristics, population size, and home range of the bog turtle, Clemmys muhlenbergii, in Maryland. J. Herpetol. 23:356-362.
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- Mitchell, J. C. 1991. Amphibians and reptiles. Pages 411-76 in K. Terwilliger (coordinator). Virginia's Endangered Species: Proceedings of a Symposium. McDonald and Woodward Publishing Company, Blacksburg, Virginia.
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- Morrow, J. L., J. H. Howard, S. A. Smith, and D. K. Poppel. 2001. Home range and movements of the bog turtle (Clemmys muhlenbergii) in Maryland. Journal of Herpetology 35:68-73.
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