Bog Turtles on the Walls Tract Pennsbury Township

The Bog Turtle (Muhlenberg's turtle) is North America’s smallest turtle species. Often described as the "Jewels of the Wetland" it is also the rarest turtle in America. (It is a threatened and endangered species). Bog turtles are characterized by their small size, dark coloration, and large yellow toorange blotches on both sides of the head. Shell lengths of bog turtles average between 3 and 4 inches, and the largest bog turtle ever recorded was 4.5 inches. They are highly secretive in nature.
Lenape Turtle
The American Indians consider it a sacred animal. The Lenni Lenape Indians (The Turtle Clan, Lenni-Lenape Indians are known by the Algonkin Tribes as the "Original People", "Grandfather", or "Men of Men", ) totem looks very much like a bog turtle. "Lumowaki, lowanaki tulpenaki elowaki tulapiwi linapiwi" (In that ancient country, in that northern country, in that turtle country, the best of the Lenape were the Turtle men) (From The Lenape and their Legends by Daniel G. Brinton (1884)). Tribes in the Unami (Turtle) Nation believe they came to this land on, and the land was created from, the back of a large bog turtle which then shrank to live in sacred places and to be near the Indians. (From Ani-Stohini/Unami nation)

We found here in Pennsbury Township perhaps the largest bog turtle colony in the world which allowed us to slow down the development of the area. This same area was the site of the all day portion of the Battle of the Brandywine. See The Battle of the Brandywine in Pennsbury Township

It is very interesting to note that in the battle, fighting under Greene was brigadier General Peter Muhlenberg, a Lutheran minister born in Trappe PA. As he rode along the defensive line rallying the Virginia troops, he was recognized by some Hessians who called him by his nickname "Devil Pete". During the Revolutionary War his younger brother, Henry Muhlenberg, because of the prominence of his patriot brothers, was always in danger. During the morning portion of the Battle of Brandywine, the cannon fire from the Pennsbury Township portion of the battle was recorded by Henry and many others in Philadelphia. Henry's father in Trappe also heard this portion of the battle: "This morning we heard heavy and long continued cannonading some thirty miles away on Brandywine Creek" Muhlenbergs and the Revolutionary Underground

Immediately following the Battle of the Brandywine, four days before the British occupation of Philadelphia, Henry escaped what was almost certain death at the hands of the Torys. Disguised as an Indian and carrying a rifle under a blanket he left Philadelphia to join his family in Trappe. He was nearly caught and did not return to Philadelphia until after the British withdrawal in 1778. It was during this time that Henry Muhlenberg discovered the highly secretive Muhlenberg turtle (Bog turtle) hence up through 1956 it was known by everyone as Muhlenberg's turtle (Offical name is now Clemmys muhlenbergii turtle). (References located by Dan Klem, Jr., Muhlenberg College).

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Update: US Fish and Wildlife and PA Boat and Fish found ten bog turtles in a matter of a few hours at the site indicating that this could be one of the largest, if not the largest bog turtle colony in the state. (A neighbor holding one of the Bog Turtles):

Approx. 14+ acres of land in Chester County, Pennsbury Township, 157 McFadden Road, Chadds Ford PA 19317, tax ID #64-03-0111-000 was bought by a developer in 2003 from the Cecil Walls estate. A large part of the land is wetlands supplied by many deep springs. For the last 50 years locals here have been aware of little brown-black turtles throughout the area. On April 15th 2003 I took several pictures of a bog turtle sunning in the wetland. It is interesting to note no bog turtles have been identified in Pennsbury Township.

The bog turtle photographs were take at location UTM 18 447288E 4413524N. See map below.

Photos by Bryan Boardman. Telephone: (610)388-0672 Email:

Pasted below are some of the pictures I took April 15th 2003 on the Walls tract showing a bog turtle sunning. It's about 3 1/2 to 4 inches long and has the very distinctive orange mark on its neck. April 15th was our first warmer spring day.

First photo taken right after I noticed the bog turtle. It is not easy to see in the photos but the entire area surrounding the turtle includes many spring seeps (perhaps one every 1 to 2 feet) from holes deeper than ones arm length.

Second photo taken. I had moved closer to the turtle. He had noticed me and turned his head around.
Close up from second photo:
Third photo:
Close up from third photo:
Fourth photo taken:
Fourth photo blown up:
From fourth photo as above but blown up more:
Fifth photo. In this photo I had walked around to the other side of the turtle. Notice he has now pulled his head back:
Close-up of fifth photo:
Sixth photo. Like the fifth photo this is from the other side of the turtle looking back at the house and barn:
Seventh photo taken from green grass area looking towards the side of the turtle:
Close-up of the seventh photo:
A second close-up from seventh photo:
A repeat of the best photo taken i.e. a close-up from the fourth photo:
As indicated at the top of the page if your browser indicates it is done downloading this page but some of the pictures have not been downloaded, i.e. only a red X is displayed instead of the picture, hit your browser's "Refresh" button to download the remaining pictures.
The bog turtle photographs were take at location UTM 18 447288E 4413524N as marked with a red X on the following map:
Bog Turtle information from a pro developer engineering firm Rettew Associates Inc.:

Winter 2000 Environmental News

Bog Turtles Protected

Recently, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released a draft of the Bog Turtle Northern Population Recovery Plan, which focuses on removing bog turtles from the threatened and endangered list. Land development projects will be effected by this plan due to the implementation of 300-foot upland buffers around all previously identified bog turtle wetlands-three identified zones of protection. Zone 1 includes wetlands occupied by bog turtles; Zone 2 consists of the 300-foot upland buffer; and Zone 3 includes upland, wetland and riparian areas extending at least one mile beyond the boundary of Zone 2.

Meetings with the USFWS and the PA Fish and Boat Commission (PAFBC) confirm that no permanent impacts, such as development, roads, sewer lines, residences, driveways, parking lots or other structures, etc., will be permitted within this 300-foot upland buffer. Unfortunately, these agencies are already enforcing these measures with little or no room for compromise.

Protocols are in place under the Endangered Species Act for formal and informal consultation with the USFWS allowing the developer to discuss potential impacts to these wetlands or buffers. However, these protocols include the creation of a Habitat Conservation Plan (HPC) and in-depth, long-term ecological studies of the species population and its habitat. Ultimately for final approval of a HPC and subsequent issuance of a incidental take permit, the long-term study must convince the regulatory agencies that no present or future degradation of bog turtle habitat will occur. Again, this may be difficult or nearly impossible to achieve without completely avoiding the three protection zones mentioned earlier
The above is from: Bog Turtles Protected

For pictures of developer running heavy equipment through bog turtle wetland area and also wetland area extending through woods click here:
Wetlands through woods