For Immediate Release,
January 13, 2022
ASHEVILLE, N.C.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition today urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the southern population of the bog turtle as a federal endangered species in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.
The bog turtle is North America’s smallest turtle, measuring about the length of a human thumb. It is also one of the continent’s most imperiled turtles: Its southern population has declined by at least 50% in the past two decades, and fewer than 2,000 individuals are left.
“These little turtles are on the brink of extinction, and they need help now,” said Will Harlan, a staff scientist at the Center. “Bog turtles have been hunkered down in Appalachia for 20 million years, yet without federal protection they could be gone forever before we know it.”
Habitat destruction and poaching are the primary causes of the bog turtles’ steep decline. Bog turtles live in marshy wetlands that are being drained for development. Only 500 acres of mountain bog habitat remain across the turtles’ entire southern range.
Bog turtles are divided into northern and southern populations. The northern population was listed as federally threatened in 1997, but the southern population was not, and in the past two decades, its numbers have plummeted. Only 14 viable sites remain across the turtle’s entire five-state southern range.
Full protection as an endangered species would ensure that bog turtles and their remaining habitat are safeguarded. It would also require a federal recovery plan to restore bog turtle populations.
“Bog turtles are nearly gone. That’s on us,” said Harlan. “But there’s still time to save them if we act now. With Endangered Species Act protections, these tiny turtles have a fighting chance.”