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WEST JEFFERSON, N.C. (Feb. 18) – In the northwestern-most corner of North Carolina, a remarkable project — a component of the Wildlife Diversity Program of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission — is helping protect mountain bogs and improve stream quality. And you can help.

By checking the Line 26 Option of your state income tax form, you can give any portion of your refund to the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Fund. This fund helps the Wildlife Diversity Program with projects that assist a wide range of species and their habitats. Although the program targets nongame animals, game species such as smallmouth bass, deer and quail also benefit because they share many of the same habitats.

“Mountain bogs are essential habitat for the rare bog turtle,” said Gabrielle Graeter, a wildlife biologist with the Commission. “The bog turtle is the smallest turtle in the United States, growing to only four to five inches long. The bog turtle is small enough to easily fit into your palm. It is listed as a threatened species because of a loss of habitat and its popularity in the pet trade.”

The bog in this project, like many of the bogs in western North Carolina, is located on private land and needed better protection and management.

“To accomplish this, we added fencing around the bog to control grazing and removed invasive plants to improve habitat quality,” Graeter explained. “There is an advantage to having cattle graze a bog, in that they maintain it as an open meadow bog, which provides the conditions that bog turtles seem to prefer – open, sunny, yet wet, mucky soils, with minimal woody vegetation.”

Timing is the key.

“By keeping cattle out of the bog during peak turtle activity periods we've also worked to protect and improve conditions for rare plant species in the bog areas,” Graeter said. “The threatened Gray’s lily which blooms in June will also likely benefit from the exclusion of the cattle during these times as well. Opening the habitat back up to provide more sunlight often results in a reappearance of more rare bog plants.”

Tax season isn’t the only time to give to wildlife. Other ways to help North Carolina’s wildlife and their habitats year-round are:
Donations can also be sent to: Non-game and Endangered Wildlife Fund, 1722 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1722. Make checks payable to NCWRC. All donations are tax-deductible. For more information about the projects and activities of the Commission’s Wildlife Diversity Program and how your donations are being used, visit North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
 
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