Reptiles and amphibians listed as Endangered, Threatened, or of Special Concern under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA) include species of sea turtles, freshwater turtles, a brackish water turtle, a tortoise, snakes, salamanders, and a toad. These species typically require a mosaic of habitat types to complete their annual life cycle and travel long distances over land in the process. In their travels they often cross roads, which make them particularly vulnerable to road mortality. Most of the state-listed reptiles and amphibians require one type of habitat for overwintering, another for breeding and may need a third for nesting. For example, Blanding's Turtles often move from marshland overwintering locations to vernal pools for breeding and feeding, then females move to open canopy upland areas for nesting.
Reptile and amphibian conservation is achieved by protecting the habitats in which these species live, not only from outright destruction, but also from habitat degradation due to invasive exotic plants, succession, and roads. Certain amphibian species depend on the presence of vernal pools for breeding, and any changes to the hydrology of those pools can have harmful effects on populations of these species. These same species spend most of their lives in the forests around vernal pools, so protection of the uplands around vernal pools is critical to their long-term survival. Populations of turtles and other species can be severely impacted by road mortality, so NHESP is partnering with MassDOT through the Linking Landscapes Program to document and address key sites in the Commonwealth where incidences of wildlife road mortality appear to be high.
Education is another key component of reptile and amphibian conservation. For example, some species are particularly prone to incidental collection (either collection for pets or through misguided efforts to move an animal to "a better location") and others are killed due to human fears and misperceptions. Through education we hope to help people understand the harm that can come from removing animals from the wild or from moving animals from their natural homes into different habitats, and to replace fears or misperceptions (such as fear of venomous snakes) with appreciation and respect.
In addition to state-listed species, we are currently requesting observation data for