Male vs Female
You can distinguish a male bog turtle from a female by simply looking at their extremities and carapace.
A male tends to sport a more solid and long tail with a slightly curved plastron. The female, on the other hand, has a level plastron and a broader scale. Females also have more of an arched form than males. Females are slightly smaller at birth and also grow more slowly than males. However, both genders grow rapidly until they are fully matured.
It is quite simple to identify a bog turtle from its brilliant red, yellow, and orange spots. These are found on each surface of the reptile’s head. Their scales can vary in color from a brown shade to black.
Each structural plate on the bog turtle will generally sport light colors while its skin color is dark with an orange-red wash on the inside of the legs. Their snout is usually quite prominent while the carapace is domed and rectangular in shape. This tends to be narrower toward the head and then wider at the turtle’s tail.
The carapace will usually have easily identifiable rings on the rough scutes or scales with some having a radiated arrangement of lines. Their shell’s belly, the plastron, is dark brown to black with light marks dashed here and there.
As a Pet
Bog turtles can be great fun to keep as pets. They are smart reptiles that can learn to recognize their owners and even come out to ask for food. However, you should house the males separately from other males if you intend to keep a few as pets as they could start to fight over their territory.
In its natural environment, which is usually the wetland in which it hatched, a bog turtle can have a maximum lifespan of around 50 years or more. The average lifespan of these reptiles is actually around 20 to 30 years.
The Bronx Zoo keeps several turtles that are over 35 years old with bog turtles being the oldest of the lot. The age of a bog turtle can be determined by counting the number of rings in their scute apart from the first one which develops before birth.
Bog turtles have acquired many adaptations to benefit their survival. One of the biggest threats these turtles face is the pet trade. They are highly valued and, therefore, highly sought after. Pet companies go to their habitats, such as wetlands, and hand capture these turtles to then sell them on in pet stores.
Bog turtles have adapted to blend in with their wetland surroundings to help them escape predators, including people.
When considering their genetics, bog turtles are not very diverse and throughout their long history, the turtle hasn’t changed that much.
After six months or so of brumation (a period of inactivity in reptiles – not to be confused with hibernation), the breeding season for the bog turtle kicks in. This will occur between March and June. Once fertilization has been successful, female bog turtles deposit their eggs in a shallow nest.
The female bog turtle will usually deposit a clutch of up to six small, elliptical eggs with parchment shells into a shallow nest. A typical clutch size will be around three eggs. However, older, larger females may produce larger eggs as well as larger clutches.
Usually, one clutch per season is very normal but, on some occasions, a second clutch can be produced. A strong female bog turtle can usually produce around 30 to 45 eggs in her lifetime.
Baby bog turtles typically measure around 2.5 centimeters (0.98 inches) in length when they are hatched. Females tend to be smaller but develop slower than the males. However, both grow quite rapidly until they reach full physical maturity. They then stop growing completely.
Young bog turtles roughly grow in stature during their first four years but do not become fully martured until they reach five or six years of age.
Bog turtles reach sexual maturity between the ages of eight and eleven or when their carapace’s length is approximately 3 inches. They have an impressive reproduction cycle with one clutch per year, as mentioned above.
Juveniles manage to develop very quickly and reach adulthood between the ages of 4 and 10. Most bog turtle eggs are produced in June and take 42 to 80 days to hatch. When cared for, these turtles can usually live for upwards of 40 years.
The bog turtle was deemed an endangered species in Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts in 1997 and remains so to this day. They have also been deemed endangered in other regions such as Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.
Due to a loss of habitat, 80% of the bog turtle’s population has died out in the last 30 years. This is also because of the growing pet trade where pet companies take the turtles straight from their habitats to be sold in stores.
Bog turtles are omnivores. They eat aquatic plants such as duckweed as well as berries, seeds, earthworms, slugs, snails, insects, other invertebrates, frogs, and a whole host of other small vertebrates.
They are also known to occasionally consume carrion (the decaying flesh of dead animals). Invertebrates, such as insects, are generally considered to be their most important food item.
When in captivity, a bog turtle can eat a variety of vegetables and fruits. Meat, such as liver, chicken hearts, or even tinned dog food can also be fed to pet bog turtles. However, they only feed during the day and rarely during the hottest hours.
Many animals are considered bog turtle predators. These include two snake species known as Nerodia Sipedon and Thamnophis Sirtalis, snapping turtles, striped skunks, dogs, foxes, muskrats, and raccoons.
Leeches and parasitic flies are also considered threats as they can cause blood loss and weaknesses. Unfortunately, their shells offer little protection from these predators so they tend to bury themselves in soft mud when under threat.
On a day-to-day basis, bog turtles move very little. They usually like to just bask in the sun and wait for prey. They become more active after rainfall. Some studies have found that male bog turtles move from 2.1 meters to 23 meters a day while the females roam 1.1 meters to 18 meters.
Both sexes are known to be capable of homing when released at distance reaching up to 0.8 km from where they were captured. Home-range migration has been recorded at 78 meters for males and 260 meters for females.
Bog turtles can suffer from bacterial infections. Two genera of bacteria (Aeromonas and Pseudomonas) can cause pneumonia in some of the species. Furthermore, bacteria aggregates, also known as biofilms, have been found in the lungs of these reptiles, although this is very rare.
The eye colors of bog turtles can vary from one individual to another. However, most have yellow-brown eyes or simply dark brown colorings.
Bog turtles usually spend September to March or April in hibernation. They either do this alone or, sometimes, in small groups in spring seeps. These small groups can contain up to 12 turtles and, on occasions, can include other species of turtles.
When hibernating, bog turtles find an area of dense soil (a strong root system) and use this for protection while they are dormant.
Nonetheless, they sometimes hibernate in other areas such as animal burrows, the bottom of trees, or empty spaces within mud. They will usually emerge from hibernation when the air temperature reaches between 61 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit or 16 and 31 degrees Celsius.
Can they swim?
These little turtles can indeed swim! You can sometimes see them swimming in the wild but most are not particularly adept at it. When you see one swimming, you will probably notice how clumsy it looks. Their feet are usually shorter with individual toes which don’t allow for the best swimming techniques, especially when compared to other turtles like cooters.
In terms of housing, bog turtles can live happily in a straight cage. They will need some space with shallow water and land to imitate their natural habitat. A regular 3” x 2” tank should suffice while two turtles will need twice this range. You should also install numerous hiding spots, especially if you have more than one turtle in a cage.
Their foundation should be a compost or lead rash and a shelter in the form of hollow woods. This must be high enough for your turtle to move around freely.
For food, feed insects such as dragonflies, beetles, and millipedes and snails, spiders, and earthworms.
Domestically, a bog turtle can cost between $250 and $450 but there are some reports that some sell for close to $2,000 in Japan.
The first identified bog turtle remains date back to 300,000 to 1.8 million years ago. In this time, they haven’t changed much at all.