The grant will go toward buying a home for the turtle, which is so rare it's considered threatened with extinction. The animals with mahogany-colored shells and yellowish-orange blotches on their heads favor freshwater bogs, fens, wet meadows, marshes, spring seeps, and wet cow pastures.
Jonathan A. McKnight, associate DNR director for habitat conservation, said the federal funds would go toward preserving a patch of bog turtle habitat in Harford County. To shield them from poachers - a major threat to their continued existence - he declined to be more specific about the site's location or its characteristics.
The northeastern bog turtle population lives in scattered spots from Connecticut to Maryland, but this state is the "stronghold," according to McKnight. They're found in just four counties - Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil and Harford.
"It's an important portion of our bog turtle population," McKnight said of the Harford site. The state's known communities of turtles live in a series of wetlands that are interconnected, he explained, and state officials want to keep them in a natural state in order to protect them.
While farming and development have chipped away over the years at the turtles' habitat, their biggest threat these days is from illegal collectors, McKnight said. With bog turtles fetching thousands of dollars each on the black market, wildlife officials strive to safeguard their remaining locations.