Bog Turtle

Glyptemys muhlenbergii

Order: Testudines

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Temperature, Humidity, & Lighting:
    • Temperature:
    • Humidity:
    • Lighting:
  • Substrate: To house the turtles, add sufficient peat moss (several inches) and sprayed/flood until it becomes water logged.
  • From the Studbook:
    • create basking spots and areas using concrete blocks and top with plant and soil “plugs” containing various native plants from the wild bog sites.
    • Water: The water system is a flowthrough system with a simple garden hose for the input and a small drainage port for the outflow. Due to the high level of sediment in the water (peat) a standard mechanical and biological filtration unit is unlikely to perform well and would require constant maintenance.

TurtleBog hatchling tub

Above photo: Bog Turtle hatchling tub- a similar setup could be used for ambassador animals. Photo from the Studbook.

Diet Requirements

  • From the Studbook: Our turtles are fed a diet consisting of only adult crickets approximately four times a week from ~mid-April to ~late September, depending on weather with supplements added at each feeding (calcium 3x weekly and multi-vitamins 1x weekly). It should also be noted that the enclosure appears to have a abundant earthworm, pill bug, and slug populations that probably serve as additional food items.

Veterinary Concerns

Notes on Enrichment & Training


Colony or Breeding Management

Notes species is housed or managed socially or for breeding purposes.

Individual Identification

Dimorphism: Males tend to be larger than females, and have concave plastrons.

Programmatic Information


hot water bottle

Temperature Guidelines

  • Brandywine Zoo: During cool weather (under 65°F), supplemental heat is provided with a hot water bottle set to one side of the transport cooler. Place hot water bottle on outside of transport box, but inside secondary cooler.


  • Brandywine Zoo: aquatic turtles travel in a locking-lid type tote that have been amended with extra ventilation holes on the lid (with a wood-burning tool). Some species are transported with 1-2cm of water, while others are transported with the tote lined with very wet (but no standing water) paper towels.turtle tote
  • During cool weather, the tote is transported inside a larger, secondary Coleman style cooler.
  •  lg cooler  sm cooler

Tips on Presentation

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling

Potential Messaging

  • Bog Turtles are a Red Level SSP program
  • Habitat loss
  • In general, animals seen at the zoo do not make good pets. Most have specialized dietary, veterinary, housing, and social needs that are difficult or impossible for even dedicated pet owners to meet. Always ensure that your future pet has not been taken from the wild. Captured animals are typically mistreated by profit-motivated traffickers and dealers, resulting in many animal deaths; well-meaning animal lovers may feel like they are rescuing animals by purchasing them but are really perpetuating the cruelty. In addition, many exotic pets are released by their owners when they become too dangerous or demanding, often with devastating effects on local ecosystems. Animals that should never be kept as pets include all bats, primates, and exotic carnivores. Birds, fish, and reptiles have specialized needs, are frequently wild-caught, and damage the local environment if released; guests should be advised to educate themselves and proceed with caution. Domestic dogs and cats are almost always the best option! Many deserving animals are available for adoption at animal shelters.

Acquisition Information

Bog Turtles are a Red Level SSP species. Contact Program Leader Michael Ogle.

Comments from the Rating System

  • Maryland Zoo in Baltimore: Excellent educational content; critically endangered.

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Lives in isolated colonies on the eastern U.S. seaboard from New York state to Georgia.
Prefers completely saturated, usually spring-fed wetlands such as bogs, fens, wet meadows, sedge marshes, and older spruce swamps. Prefer relatively open wetlands with slowly flowing streams, rivulets, or surface seepages, usually dominated by clumps of grasses and sedges, and that have soft muddy bottoms.

Physical Description

A very small water turtle with a fairly flat shell, large head, and relatively small feet. The body and shell is mostly dark brown or black, with some yellow or red mottling on the legs. There is a bright yellow or orange streak behind the eyes that may form a band around the neck.

Life Cycle

Breeding primarily occurs in the spring, but a second breeding season may occur during the early fall. Females typically lay eggs in sunny spots in late spring or early summer, especially during the month of June. Mothers usually lay a single clutch of 1-6 eggs per season. The eggs incubate for 1.5-2 months before the young hatch. Baby turtles will hatch in early fall and may spend the winter in their nest before emerging. After the nest is dug and eggs are laid, no further parental care is given.


This animal is only active for the warmest half of the year. During winter months, it will bury itself in mud and brumate until mid-Spring. They are typically diurnal, but are rarely observed due to their small size, inaccessible habitat, and habit of hiding under vegetation. Turtles are typically sedentary, spending most of their life in a small area.

Threats and Conservation Status

Listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered. The population is believed to have declined by about 80% over the last 100 years.
The major threat is habitat degradation and fragmentation. Since the animal lives in very specific and delicate wetland settings, draining, damming, and filling of these wetlands for human construction or recreation directly impacts the viability of areas for feeding and reproduction. Habitat loss is especially detrimental to this species due to its low reproductive rate.
Collection for the pet trade is a historic threat. However, the rarity and newfound legal protection for this animal has rendered this a minor concern.
Collision with traffic as turtles cross roads for new habitat is a constant threat, though also minor due to this turtle’s sedentary nature.
Listed under CITES Appendix I and protected by the Endangered Species Act, the bog turtle is also the subject of a Species Survival Plan (SSP), which aims to create a genetically diverse captive population.

From the Studbook:

Conservation Status: Currently, this species is listed as “Critically Endangered, CR,” on the IUCN Red list and on CITES Appendix I. The USFWS lists this species as Threatened. The wild population is split into a southern and northern range and research is currently underway to determine whether these represent distinct species or subpopulations of the same species. Endemic to the Eastern US, this species ranges through Kentucky, Georgia and the Carolinas for the southern section and in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, and as far north as Vermont for the northern population. Historical causes of this species’ decline include loss of suitable habitat, collections for the pet trade, increased human wildlife conflict (road mortality), habitat fragmentation and degradation. Due to the secretive natural history of this species living and hibernating in bogs, the full extent of loss is unknown but is thought to be upward of 80% decline in population (IUCN, 2013).

Did you know…

  • About 1/3 of all bog turtles live in the state of Maryland, but most people have never seen them due to their small size, inaccessible habitat, and rarity
  • This animal’s genus name, Glyptemys, is a comination of the Greek words glypt and emys, meaning “carved” and “turtle,” respectively. The specific name muhlenbergii is in honor of Rev. Gotthilf Heinrich Muhlenberg, the 18th century botanist who first described this species.


Cover photo: from the Bog Turtle SSP; Bern Tryon


Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.

Contributors and Citations

  • Houston Zoo, Natural Encounters
  • The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore
  • Bog Turtle SSP/Studbook