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Herp Atlas Newsletter Spring 1998

Herp Atlas Logo
Herp Atlas Logo


New York State
Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project

Department of Environmental Conservation
Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources


Focus on Salamanders

This spring, as in the previous three years, we are asking our atlasers to focus their efforts on locating and reporting members of a specific group of amphibians and reptiles. This year we have chosen members of the Order Caudata. These are the salamanders. In the early spring, species such as the spotted salamander make their way from their woodland habitats to ponds where they mate and lay eggs. This is an especially good opportunity to find and identify these species because they are moving about in relatively large numbers. Other species of salamander, such as the two-lined salamander, can be found by turning over rocks and other debris in clean woodland streams and several meters away from the stream.

Moisture is essential for the survival of all amphibians in order to facilitate respiration. Pools of water are necessary for egg-laying and for the development of larvae. In several species, such as the blue-spotted salamander, mating occurs when males deposit spermatophores on the bottom of the pond in early spring. This tiny jelly-like pyramid has a packet of sperm on top, which a female picks up in her cloaca. Fertilization occurs internally and the eggs are laid and left to develop unattended. In other species, such as the marbled salamander, eggs are laid at the end of summer in small depressions on land in anticipation of fall rains that will fill the depressions and allow the eggs to develop.

Eighteen salamander species occur in New York State; they are listed below with their status on the state endangered species list in parentheses (E=endangered, SC=special concern).The largest is the eastern hellbender which measures approximately 30 to 51 cm in length. Hellbenders are rather grotesque looking animals with many folds of loose skin on their sides, a very flat head and tiny eyes. They can be found under large rocks in the Susquehanna and Allegheny River drainage. The four-toed salamander is the smallest salamander that occurs in New York, measuring approximately 5 to 9 cm in length. Commonly associated with sphagnum, this little salamander can be identified by an alabaster belly sprinkled with tiny black dots and, of course, only four toes on its hind feet (other salamanders have five). What salamander species can you find?

List of Salamanders that occur in New York - text box image

Strategy for a Successful 1998

We have completed the eighth year of the ten year atlas project to document the distribution of amphibians and reptiles in New York and we are happy to report that it was a record year. We received over 9500 species reports -- that's over 1/3 of all the reports we received since the atlas began in 1990. Although this is an impressive number, we must do better if we are to have adequate statewide coverage by the end of 1999.

Many people have asked whether they should bother to submit records of common species from areas they "are sure" someone else must have covered. Well, with all the tens of thousands of hikers trampling through the Adirondacks, we did not have a single report from the Mount Marcy quadrangle, the most frequently hiked area in the Adirondacks, until 1997. The green frog, our most frequently reported species, has been reported from only 77% of the blocks. So the easy answer is that we'd like you to send a survey card for every observation you make -- the computer can sort them and check for duplicates much faster than anyone can by hand.

If you want to participate in a more focused manner and help us fill in the gaps, follow these guidelines:

  1. Report your first record of the year for each species of frog or toad calling in a block.
  2. Report all roadkill snakes and turtles.
  3. Report all observations of frogs or salamanders depositing eggs.
  4. Report all observations of turtles nesting.
  5. Report all observations you think are significant (e.g., feeding, being fed upon, hibernating, mating, etc.).
  6. Report all observations of the following species:
Report All Occurrences of These Species
hellbender Fowler's toad (except Long Island) ribbon snake
mudpuppy northern cricket frog hognose snake
marbled salamander musk turtle worm snake
four-toed salamander spotted turtle black racer
spring salamander Blanding's turtle smooth green snake
red salamander spiny softshell black rat snake
longtail all lizards copperhead
spadefoot toad queen snake timber rattlesnake

We now have at least one record for 940 blocks (95%) and 919 towns (93%). The quad with the most species reported is ROSENDALE in Ulster County with 38 species. Only 303 quads statewide have 15 or more species, which is the number we expect in most blocks that have received a moderate effort. Plan your field season by requesting interim reports for your area (see announcement on next page) and help us make this a banner year!

Internet Address Update

We reported in the last newsletter that you could learn more about the Herp Atlas through our DEC web site. It hasn't happened yet, but until it does, you can get limited information at www.cortland.edu/herp/ or at www.nysm.nysed.gov.bri.html or at the DEC home page (see next page for address). NY Natural History Conference

Do you want to learn more about natural history in New York State? Visit the NYS Museum's web site at: www.nysm.nysed.gov. The Museum will also be hosting the 5th New York Natural History Conference from October 14th-17th. Find out more about the conference by visiting the museum's home page.

Map of the number of species of reptiles and amphibians reported by topographic quadrangle in New York: 1990-1997

Interim Reports - a Hot Item

Get yours now!

Once again this year, we have prepared interim reports that compile the data we have received from our volunteers through January 1998. The map printed above is one of these reports. It shows our progress by the number of species reported so far in each quad in the state. Another report has distribution maps for each species. These maps show a preliminary range for each species in the state. Finally, we have produced a report that lists the species that have been reported in each quad. This information can be very useful to volunteers in planning where to conduct searches this year to help fill in the blank spots. Please write and request the interim reports for your area or for any species in which you are particularly interested.

Deformed Frogs in the News

The North American Reporting Center for Amphibian Malformations is helping to document occurrences of deformed amphibians and welcomes your reports. In New York, Stan Sessions, Hartwick College Professor, has been studying these malformations for years. To learn more about deformed frogs or to report an observation, visit these two web sites: www.npwrc.org/narcam or http://www.hartwick.edu/x27497.xml

Remember... Send in your survey cards as you complete them. This will allow us to track our progress more efficiently and not become backlogged in the fall. Thanks!


In addition to funding from New York State, support for the New York State Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project has been provided by the following:
Biodiversity Research Institute State University of New York at Cortland
Institute for Ecosystem Studies Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
Mohonk Preserve New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Cornell University
Upstate Herpetological Association U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Federal Aid to Endangered Species (Section 6)
New York Turtle & Tortoise Society U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partnerships for Wildlife
Return a Gift to Wildlife Tax Checkoff Sabin Conservation Fund

This issue of the newsletter was printed courtesy of the Upstate Herpetological Association.

New York State Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project
Bureau of Wildlife
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-4754

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