Volunteers needed to report reptile, amphibian sightings

CONCORD – While you’re outdoors spending time in New Hampshire’s woods and wetlands this year, keep an eye out for reptiles and amphibians. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department collects information on these sightings to help monitor the state’s reptile and amphibian populations.

Biologists are asking volunteers to help fill in gaps in the data for several seldom-seen reptiles and amphibians, including the northern leopard frog, eastern hognose snake, blue-spotted salamanders, spotted turtles, and several other species of salamanders, frogs, turtles, and snakes. Biologists are also encouraging reports of vernal pools, a necessary breeding habitat for species like wood frogs, spotted salamanders, and many invertebrates. Vernal pools are often small, isolated wetlands that are full of water for only part of the year, making them easily overlooked. Protecting this important resource is a priority identified in New Hampshire’s Wildlife Action Plan.

It’s easy to become a wildlife reporting volunteer, and you can start right now. New Hampshire Fish and Game has some great resources to help you identify the frogs, salamanders, snakes and turtles that exist in the state and the important habitats that many of them rely upon. This includes the manual identifying and documenting vernal pools in New Hampshire and the vernal pool reporting form, available at www.wildnh.com/nongame/vernal-pools.html. Also on the Fish and Game website, you can find photographs, descriptions and lots of great information on the state’s 40 native reptiles and amphibians.

When the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program was established in 1988, surprisingly little information existed about the distribution of frogs, snakes, salamanders and turtles in New Hampshire. The Nongame Program worked with Dr. Jim Taylor at the University of New Hampshire, to enlist volunteers to send in reports on amphibians and reptiles and published his book, “Reptiles and Amphibians of New Hampshire.” The Reptile and Amphibian Reporting Program (RAARP) was formally established in 1992, and volunteers soon had documented hundreds of new sightings.

“The RAARP program continues to grow,” said Melissa Doperalski of New Hampshire Fish and Game. “Every year we get more people submitting valuable information on species observations, many of them in locations where we never knew they existed before.” Since the beginning of the program, over 1,000 volunteers have submitted over 10,000 wildlife records.

Although reptiles and amphibians are often the focus of reporting – especially during this time of year when they are coming out of hibernation and moving into wetlands – biologists encourage your reports of other wildlife species as well. Several years ago, the Reptile and Amphibian Reporting Program was combined with the New Hampshire Wildlife Sightings reporting webpage, nhwildlifesightings.unh.edu, which allows additional wildlife species such as certain birds and mammals to be reported. On the website, mapping tools allow you to easily pinpoint the location of your wildlife observations, and digital photographs can be uploaded as part of your submissions. Detailed instructions are available on the website – it’s fun and easy to use.

The Fish and Game Department’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program works to protect more than 400 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects and other invertebrates in New Hampshire. Learn more about it at www.wildnh.com/nongame.