Field Guide to Maryland's Turtles (Order Testudines)

Bog Turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii​)

Common Name:

​Bog Turtle


Photo of Bog Turtle courtesy of Lori Erb
Photo of Bog Turtle courtesy of Stephen Badger

Size: 3 ½ – 4 inches. Record – 4 ½ inches


This is North America's smallest turtle. Characterized by a yellow, orange or red "ear" patch, a large spot of color on either side of the head. Rarely, this patch is white and it may be divided into two parts. The carapace (top shell) is usually keeled; growth "rings" or annuli give it a rough appearance. Older individuals may have a smooth shell. The shell is longer than it is wide. The main color is black to dark olive-brown. The large scutes, or scales, of the adult shell may have radiating pattern of red or yellow starbursts in the center. The plastron (bottom shell) in adults is black with cream colored blotches. The plastron of the young bog turtle is yellow with a large black blotch in the center.

Photo of Bog Turtle courtesy of Scott A. Smith
Photo of Bog Turtle
courtesy of Scott A. Smith


As its name implies, this turtle prefers spring-fed wetlands with soft highly organic soils. They like relatively open habitats with slow flowing stream systems or surface seepages. They are burrowers and need a soft substrate for digging. Dominant vegetation is usually grasses and sedges.

Photo of Habitat for Bog Turtle courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers
Photo of Habitat for Bog Turtle
courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers

How to Find:

This is a secretive animal but sometimes can be seen basking on grass and sedge tussocks, especially after emerging from hibernation in the early spring. The turtle will burrow into aquatic tunnels when it senses danger. If you reach into these tunnels, you may also find an eastern snapping turtle, so avoid this method.

Distribution in Maryland:

Found in small portions of Maryland north-central counties, from Cecil to Carroll. This species is Federally Threatened due to threats by collectors and habitat loss. If you see one, please report sightings​ to Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service.

Maryland Distribution Map for Bog Turtle