Conserve Wildlife Blog

Looking for the shy bog turtle

June 1st, 2020

by: Meaghan Fogarty, Conserve Wildlife Foundation Intern

Photo by Eric Sambol

Note: For the health and safety of our staff, volunteers and the communities where we work, CWF staff and volunteers are practicing social distancing and following all state and CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Two days before Governor Murphy announced the statewide stay-at-home order, the first day of spring had sprung. Human life came to a screeching halt, but the natural world nevertheless began its annual transition towards warmer weather, longer days, and new life.

As a Wildlife Conservation Intern, I’ve been working with wildlife biologist Allegra Mitchell on statewide reptile and amphibian conservation projects. Last Saturday, our small team of interns was joined by photographers Eric and Lynn Sambol who are on a mission to showcase New Jersey’s diverse spectrum of wildlife. We all geared up in chest waders and face masks, and set out (six feet apart) to find one of our state’s most elusive reptiles: the bog turtle.

On the hunt for a bog turtle, CWF biologist Allegra Mitchel searches for the secretive reptile. Photo by Lynn Sambol.

Bog turtles depend on the open, unpolluted wetlands that are becoming increasingly scarce in New Jersey. They have disappeared from more than 50% of their historically occupied sites and have been state-listed as endangered since 1973. To combat habitat loss and fragmentation, CWF is working with private landowners to evaluate and restore their wetland habitat areas.

Between mid-spring and early summer, these secretive turtles emerge for breeding and nesting, giving us only a small window of time to find, record, and identify them using a unique set of small notches in their shell.

Success! CWF interns Nicole Bergen, left, and Meaghan Fogarty, center, with biologist Allegra Mitchell, right, find an elusive bog turtle after wading through the mud for several hours. Photo by Lynn Sambol.

This year, that small window of time has coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, presenting new challenges. Some landowners are understandably wary of our team visiting their property; none of us can carpool to the farthest corners of the state; face masks and social distancing mean we often need to repeat ourselves or speak louder than normal, and sometimes we come home with funny tan-lines.

Bog turtles only grow to be about 4 inches long as adults and and quite shy, needing to be patiently coaxed out of their shells. Photos by Lynn Sambol.

Minor inconveniences aside, our biologists venture out to perform essential wildlife conservation duties across the state while exercising great caution. We’ll continue to follow all state and federal health guidelines as we work to protect our most precious species and as springtime breathes new life into the natural world

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2 Responses to “Looking for the shy bog turtle”

  1. Lisa says:

    Thank you, ladies for all that you do. We are so happy to see you protecting our terrapins!

  2. Peter Revilla says:

    Keep up the great work Allegra and the rest of the CWF team of helping to protect NJ`s most vulnerable Wildlife!