The Garden State has a new state reptile. In fact, it’s the state’s first, and it speaks to the heart of New Jersey.
It’s the bog turtle.
Think about it. It hearkens to crawling highway traffic, the swampy Meadowlands and the rate at which the state generally adopts legislation (slow). It’s fitting, considering turtles — including this little guy — crawl at an average speed of 3-4 mph on land.
Earlier this year, a Princeton teacher and his students attended the introduction of the bill after taking interest in the turtle two years ago and learning the mascot spot was open.
Monday, that two-year battle came to fruition with Gov. Phil Murphy signing the bill that dubbed the bog turtle New Jersey’s official state reptile.
The bog turtle might say the signing comes right on time.
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Once as prolific as potholes, the bog turtle at one time could be found in all but three New Jersey counties. But in 1997, one of the smallest and rarest turtles in North America was first federally listed as a threatened species.
On hot days these tiny turtles like to escape into the soft, cool muck of the area’s wetlands, natural pools and rivulets. They lay their eggs in summer in rotted tree stumps, islands raised off the ground and other drier areas. In cooler months, they steal away to underground root systems.
They’re not picky eaters. They do prefer slugs, but will also munch on carrion, small berries, seeds, young cattail shoots and duckweed. Yum.