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NC's thumb-sized turtles are the smallest on the continent; petition calls for their federal protection

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WGHP) — A petition is calling for the protection of the southern bog turtle, North America’s smallest turtle, a species native to North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia.

“These little turtles are on the brink of extinction, and they need help now,” said Will Harlan, a staff scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “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.”

The northern population of bog turtles, from Maryland through New England, was deemed federally threatened in 1997. The southern cohort, however, was noted only as “threatened due to similarity of appearance,” which doesn’t offer the same protections. Now, the Center for Biological Diversity has filed the petition asking U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare the southern population species federally endangered.

North Carolina lists bog turtles as threatened on the state level.

According to North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the bog turtle grows to four or five inches, about the length of your thumb, making it the smallest turtle species on the continent.

Due to habitat destruction and poaching, the bog turtle population has fallen by at least 50% in the south over the last two decades.

There are less than 2,000 bog turtles left and only about 500 acres of mountain bog remaining across the entire southern range of their habitat.

“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.”

Source: Fox 8 News Channel

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