Rare North Carolina Turtle Being Considered as an Endangered Species

by Tia Bailey
Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A North Carolina turtle may soon be protected under the Endangered Species Act. The rare species is the bog turtle, which is the smallest turtle in North America.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shared on Tuesday that they are considering protecting the rare turtles under the Endangered Species Act. According to a press release by the Center for Biological Diversity, the bog turtle can be found in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.

“These little turtles are on the brink of extinction, and they need help now,” Will Harlan, a staff scientist at the Center, said in the release. “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 turtles are super tiny. They are about the length of a human thumb. Additionally, the species has declined by 50% in the last two decades, leaving less than 2,000 of them left.

According to the release, the main causes of the species’ decline are habitat destruction and poaching. Bog turtles live in marshy wetlands, which are currently being drained for development.

So, if bog turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act, their habitats would be protected as well.

“Bog turtles are nearly gone. That’s on us,” Harlan said. “But there’s still time to save them if we act now. With Endangered Species Act protections, these tiny turtles have a fighting chance.”

Gopher Tortoise Denied Endangered Species Protection

Another species was recently denied protection under the Endangered Species Act, and people are angry.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shared that the gopher tortoise was denied protections under the act.

“Denying gopher tortoises the protection they need to survive is indefensible,” Elise Bennett, Florida director and an attorney at the Center, said in a press release. “It ignores devastating urban sprawl that’s decimated the tortoise’s habitat and will continue to drive the species ever closer to extinction.”

The release states that the gopher tortoise is threatened by “development-caused habitat loss and fragmentation.” This then leads to lack of food and burrow sites. This unfortunately makes the tortoises more likely to be crushed, run over, and attacked.

“This denial is a blow to the gopher tortoise and all the people who care deeply about this humble creature’s future, but we won’t give up,” Bennett said. “We’ll review this decision closely and fight to get the tortoise the protections it needs to survive.”

The gopher tortoises in limited parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and western Alabama have been protected and will continue to be. However, in eastern Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, they are not.

As a result of the decision, advocates are extremely angry. Many are still fighting against this decision.