New Jersey's been the on the wrong end of jokes, especially from New Yorkers for eons, whether it be about the way they talk or the location of choice for a certain MTV show that features a lot of beachside activities.
But New Jersey is heading in a new (and adorable) direction with the introduction of their new state reptile. Hold the jokes, it's slow and small. And so gosh-darn cute.
Welcome the bog turtle, a four-inch testudine that like other reptiles is also cold-blooded and loves to eat bugs. And unlike the alligator, the state animal of Florida, Louisianna and Mississippi, this one's perfectly harmless. No chance of getting a limb lopped off by any of these tiny, shelled wonders.
Because of its insect diet, it's the perfect complement to New Jersey's Garden State slogan in that this little guy can help keep gardens free of those dreaded six-legged invaders that can play havoc with backyard crops. But chances are, you're not likely to see the turtles, as they like to stay hidden and only emerge from the shadows or the soil to sunbathe. They also hibernate, so it's during the summer months that you'd best be able to catch a glimpse of these little guys.
The turtle's innocuous appearance isn't the biggest reason why the government of New Jersey has chosen the bog turtle. It turns out that another reason that they're hard to find, and a reason why the state chose to feature this reptile, is because they've been on the endangered species list since 1974 and there's only anywhere between 2,500 to 10,000 of them in existence in the state. It turns out that staying hidden doesn't always pose the advantages you would expect for a species to sustain itself.
Besides being sought out as pets, bog turtles depend heavily on wetland surroundings which are slowly disappearing, mostly because of development, although climate change factors heavily into the changing landscape of the state.
The bog turtle is joining a legion of New Jersey state creatures that include the honeybee (state bug), the horse (state animal), the Hadrosaurus foulkii (state dinosaur), the Eastern goldfinch (state bird) and the brook trout (state fish).
Welcome to the club, bog turtles!