Reptiles at Chincoteague (NWR) in Virginia. Published by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).
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U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Reptiles and Amphibians Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge Although reptiles and amphibians are often less visible than the other wildlife that grace Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, they make up an important part of the ecosystem. Their habitats are as varied as the refuge itself, some preferring the freshwater ponds, others taking to the sandy dunes. Please remember to respect the homes of these fascinating animals and stay on the designated trails. Reptiles Reptiles are cold-blooded, dryskinned vertebrates that usually have scaly skin and typically lay shelled eggs on land. Reptiles consist of animals such as turtles and snakes. Turtles Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina), Common, 8–18", 10–45 pounds. Found in freshwater impoundments, snapping turtles are black to light brown, and are easily recognized by their large heads and saw-toothed ridges along their tails and back of their shells. These turtles can usually be found buried in the mud and are known for their short temper and willingness to strike if provoked. Snapping turtle. Photo: Michael Colopy. Cover: Fowler’s toad. Photo: Irene Hinke Sacilotto. Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum), Common, 3–5". This mainly aquatic turtle is found in freshwater impoundments and marshes. The Eastern mud turtle is aptly named after its muddy, brown-black appearance. The turtle’s head is spotted or streaked with yellow; however, the mud turtle is rarely seen because it hides by day and forages underwater at night. Northern diamondback terrapin Northern Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin), Common, Female 6–10", Male 4–6". The Northern diamondback terrapin is found in brackish water and salt marshes, often basking on mud flats. This turtle’s shell shows deep growth rings which give it a sculpted appearance. The shell’s coloration is variable and the head and limbs are peppered with black. Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina), Uncommon, 4–8". The Eastern box turtle is mainly a land turtle, but sometimes soaks in freshwater ponds. This high-domed shell turtle has the ability to close its back end tight, which gives it a boxed appearance. Variable in color and patterns, the box turtle can be yellow, orange, olive, black, or brown. Eastern painted turtle Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta), Common, 4–7". The Eastern painted turtle is found in freshwater impoundments, often basking in the sun. This attractive turtle has a smooth black shell with yellow and red markings and yellow lines and spots on the head. Northern diamondback terrapin. Photo: Irene Hinke Sacilotto. Eastern painted turtle. Photo: Michael Colopy. Snakes No venomous snakes exist on the refuge. Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon), Rare, 22–53". The Northern water snake is found in freshwater ponds or basking on logs on the water’s edge. This snake can be reddish, brown, or gray to brownish-black with dark crossbands on the neck region and blotches on the back and side. Red-bellied turtle. Photo: T.E. Graham, USFWS. Red-bellied Turtle (Chrysemys rubriventris), Uncommon, 10–13". Often seen basking with the painted turtles, the red-bellied turtle has a brownblack shell. The females can be distinguished from the males by the vertical red lines down their back. Atlantic Loggerhead (sea turtle) (Caretta caretta), Uncommon, 30–70", 170–900 pounds. The Atlantic loggerhead is a reddish-brown sea turtle that is occasionally seen surfacing in channels and in Toms Cove. This turtle has paddle like limbs and an elongated, heart-shaped shell. Listed as a threatened species. Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus), Rare, 22–45". A tree dweller found in vines, bushes, and trees near water, the rough green snake is very slender and pea-green in color with a white to yellowishgreen belly. Black Racer (Coluber constrictor), Common, 34– 77". The black racer is a long, slender, agile and fast moving snake. What may seem to be the buzzing of a rattlesnake is actually the black racer vibrating its tail tip in dead vegetation. If grabbed, this snake may bite repeatedly and thrash about. Northern Water Snake Photo: Steve Arena, USFWS Eastern hognose snake. Photo: John White Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platyrhinos), Common, 18–45". The Eastern hognose snake is stout-bodied with a pointed, slightly upturned snout and wide neck. The coloration of this snake is highly variable, but it usually has dark blotches on its back. The hognose snake is best known for the defensive behavior of “hooding” its neck, flattening its body and hissing. If this fails to elude the predator, the Eastern hognose rolls over and plays dead. Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta), Common, 34–100". This long, powerful constrictor is shiny black with a white chin and belly. The black rat snake is an excellent climber and often resides in high tree cavities. Amphibians Amphibians are cold-blooded vertebrates that usually lack scaly skin, lay jelly-coated eggs in water, and go through metamorphosis (a change in physical appearance). This group of animals consists of toads, frogs, and salamanders. Toads Fowler’s Toad (Bufo woodhousii fowleri). Common, 2.5–5". The Fowler’s toad is found in sandy areas, on trails, and around buildings. This large toad has dry, warty skin that is yellow, green or brown in color. The back of the Fowler’s toad is blotchy while the chest is paler and unspotted. Frogs Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea), Common, 1–2.5". The green treefrog prefers moist shady places. This little frog has smooth bright green, yellow, or greenish-gray skin with a yellowish stripe along side of the body. They often congregate in large groups of several hundreds and tend to rest during the day. Black rat snake. Photo: Andrea Martinson, USFWS. Green treefrog. Photo: Hollingsworth, USFWS. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Chincoteague is one of over 500 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is a network of lands and waters managed specifically for the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat and represents the most comprehensive wildlife resource management program in the world. Units of the system stretch across the United States from northern Alaska to the Florida Keys and include small islands in the Caribbean and South Pacific. The habitat of refuges is as diverse as the nation itself. Bullfrog. Photo: Irene Hinke Sacilotto Southern Leopard Frog (Rana sphenocephala), Common, 2–5". The Southern leopard frog can be found in freshwater ponds and brackish marshes, but forages on land. This nocturnal frog is slender and green to brown in color with variable spots. Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana), Common, 3.5–8". The largest frog in North America, the bullfrog is an introduced species at the refuge. This frog is found in freshwater ponds and has green to yellowish skin with occasional gray or brown markings. Salamanders Redback Salamander (Plethodon cinereus), Rare, 2–5". The redback salamander is dark gray or black with a reddish stripe along its back. This salamander prefers the dark, moist areas under rocks and leaf litter in the forest. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service also manages National Fish Hatcheries, and provides federal leadership in habitat protection, fish and wildlife research, technical assistance and the conservation and protection of migratory birds, certain marine mammals and threatened and endangered species. Equal opportunity to participate in, and benefit from, the programs and activities of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is available to all individuals, regardless of age, race, religion, color, sex, national origin, or disability. Contact: U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, 1849 C Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20240. For further information, contact: Refuge Manager U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge P.O. Box 62 Chincoteague Island, Virginia 23336-0062 Telephone: 757/336 6122 Fax: 757/336 5273 E-mail: R5RW_CHNWR@fws.gov December 1999