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Herp Atlas Project

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What are Herps?

The word "herp" is short for herpetofauna, which is the general term for amphibians and reptiles as a group. Frogs, toads and salamanders are amphibians. Turtles, snakes and lizards are reptiles.

What was the Herp Atlas Project?

The Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project (Herp Atlas) was a ten year survey (1990-1999) that was designed to document the geographic distribution of New York State's herpetofauna. There are approximately 70 species of amphibians and reptiles in New York State. They occur in a wide variety of habitats from the Adirondack Mountains to the Finger Lakes to Long Island's ocean waters, as well as in the cities and suburbs in between. Records prior to 1989 were also sought, and together these data were combined to form an overall NYS herpetological database.

The unit of measurement for collecting atlas data is the USGS 7.5 minute topographic quadrangle. The goal was to record at least 20 species in each of these quadrangles. Some quadrangles, such as those in the lower Hudson Valley, have many more species present. Others, such as those in the Adirondacks and where there are high human populations, have fewer.

What was the Purpose?

In order to monitor changes in populations and to make sound management decisions, we must have a reliable information base from which to work. The information gathered on the current status of our populations will help us to document what changes may be taking place.

In the past decade or two there has been much discussion concerning the status of populations of amphibians. While there seems to be a general decline in this group of animals, long term monitoring projects are the only way to address this problem with scientific accuracy.


To provide information to our volunteers, a series of Herp Atlas Newsletters (PDF, 549 KB) were published from Spring 1995 to Autumn 1999. All newsletters have been combined into one PDF document. These contain articles on our progress, how to identify species, atlasing techniques, and other items of interest.


There are numerous organizations and individuals whose financial contributions and support helped to launch the Atlas Project. In addition to funding from New York State, support for the New York State Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project was provided by the following individuals and organizations (most links leave DEC website):

Click on a picture below to see a list of NYS species and species distribution maps.

Picture of a salamander
Picture of a frog
picture of a snake
Picture of a turtle

We would like to thank the following individuals for the use of their photographs:

Alvin R. Breisch - Red Salamander
Andrew T. Clay - Pickerel Frog
Ed McGowan - Timber Rattlesnake
John W. Ozard - Box Turtle

More about Herp Atlas Project :