It is hoped that this list of the Commonwealth's reptiles and amphibians will continue to serve not only as a useful reference, but will also inspire interest in these unique-- often beautiful-- animals, many populations of which are decreasing in number and range. These declines are due to many factors including loss of habitat to housing and highway development, road mortality, collection as pets, pollution and predation. Compounding the problem is the fact that reptiles and amphibians lack the mobility of birds and mammals. Geographic features and human-generated obstructions such as roads often present formidable or even insurmountable barriers to their dispersal or their return to areas from which they have been extirpated. Turtles, due to their extremely low reproductive rates, attraction to roadsides, and the propensity of people to capture and transport them, present a particularly difficult conservation challenge. Turtles are, in fact, the most threatened of the faunal groups in Massachusetts. Help them across roads if you can do so safely, but please do not transport them to new locations.
The public can add significantly to our knowledge of the range and distribution of our uncommon species by reporting sightings or road mortalities encountered in the field. The documentation of those listed as Endangered, Threatened, or Special Concern (see below) is particularly encouraged. A rare species report made by the public is often the first crucial step in ensuring the protection of the animal's habitat and the conservation of its population. If you encounter one of these rare animals, take a photograph if possible, note the date and exact location, and contact MassWildlife's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Section (508-389-6300 x200) to obtain a rare animal observation form. Locality information for such species remains confidential except for official purposes.
The first list of reptiles and amphibians of Massachusetts was prepared by D.S.C.H. Smith in 1835. Smith, who lumped amphibians and reptiles in the same class, listed 34 "species", including six which we now know did not occur in the state, three now regarded as variant names of other species, two of questionable identity, and one undescribed. The present list recognizes 51 species, including 21 amphibians and 30 reptiles. Of these, five are exclusively marine and one has been extirpated, leaving 47 inland species potentially present in the state. There are also 38 other species and subspecies which have occurred as escapes or have been illegally released (see Fauna Series #6). This includes the Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) which has been documented as breeding in some areas of the state and the Braminy Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus) which has been found at three sites in the North End of Boston since 1990.
State records are based on specimen or photographic evidence, including those reported in the technical literature or otherwise known to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. The skink records are accepted without extant specimen evidence on the basis of identifiable descriptions by competent herpetologists. Distributional information, in most instances, is given by county or region, and is based on published records, specimen data, cooperator reports, and on files of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (including the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species data base). Distributional data are not necessarily definitive, however, and in many instances reflect the need for further investigations of certain species. Some species peripheral to Massachusetts may, upon further investigation, be found within the bounds of the state. For consistency, nomenclature follows Crother, B.I. et al. (Scientific and standard English names of amphibians, and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. Soc. for the Study of Reptiles and Amphibians, Herp. Circular 29, 2000).
The taking, propagation, sale, and possession of reptiles and amphibians in Massachusetts is regulated under provisions of the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 131. The taking and possession of native species from the wild is governed by M.G.L. c. 131, § 5, and 321 CMR 3.05. Possession, sale, and propagation of both native and exotic species is governed by M.G.L. c. 131, § 23, and 321 CMR 2.12 and 9.01. State-listed "rare" species are governed by provisions of c. 131A and 321 CMR 10.00. Strict penalties may be applied to violations. Questions may be addressed to MassWildlife, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Field Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough 01581 or email: Mass.Wildlife@state.ma.us Those species appearing on the current list of Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern species in Massachusetts as authorized by M.G.L. c. 131, § 4(13A) and c. 131A, § 4 are indicated with an asterisk (*).
A selected bibliography of Massachusetts and regional faunal lists dealing with reptiles and amphibians follows the species listing.
We thank T.W. French for his careful and constructive review of this publication.