Species

What are priority species?

Whether slimy or scaly, colorful or camouflaged, the many different reptiles and amphibians make our world a more exciting place. But facing exceptional declines, we are at risk of losing some of these incredible species forever. These imperiled reptiles and amphibians are priority species whose habitats the PARCA system aims to protect from further loss and fragmentation. Using scientific criteria and expert review, PARCAs are determined by factors like species rarity, richness, regional responsibility, and landscape integrity—an effort that empowers us to conserve remaining populations of these priority reptiles and amphibians nationwide.
Saltmarsh Snake

Our teammember Clark (Nerodia clarkii) is perched on the lookout for species in peril... or maybe he's just looking for lunch.

© Mike Martin

Priority Species

Priority Species

Alligator snapping turtle

Macrochelys temminckii

This is the largest freshwater turtle in North America, weighing in at over 200 pounds! They have an intimidating shell and jaws that can bite through a broom handle.

© John P. Friel Ph.D.

Box turtle

Terrapene carolina

These turtles can draw inside and close up their entire shell, helping them to thrive in all kinds of climates and habitats. They also have incredibly long lifespans, up to a century.

© Scott Byrd

Bog turtle

Glyptemys muhlenbergii

Along the greater Appalachians, bog turtles require open canopy wetlands with mucky soils where they bury themselves to regulate body temperature and avoid predators.

© José Garrido

Brazos water snake

Nerodia harteri

Often confused for the venomous water moccasin, the Brazos water snake has an ontogenetic shift–meaning the adults live in a different habitat than the juveniles.

© Jeff Jenkerson

Chiricahua leopard frog

Lithobates chiricahuensis

Native to New Mexico, Arizona and adjacent areas of Mexico, Chiricahua leopard frogs occur in the vicinity of a variety of aquatic habitats, especially near uplands and forested habitats.

© danyz

Desert tortoise

Gopherus agassizii

These turtles can draw inside and close up their entire shell, helping them to thrive in all kinds of climates and habitats. They also have incredibly long lifespans, up to a century.

© Sean Krieg

Collared Lizard

Crotaphytus collaris

These lizards are strikingly beautiful, with incredible coloration and fancy collars. They’re one of the few lizards that can run only on their hind legs.

© Eitan Grunwald

Eastern Hellbender

Cryptobranchus alleganiensis

At over two feet long with nicknames like “grampus” and “devil dog,” hellbenders are native to swift, clean, rocky streams in montane and plateau regions of the eastern United States.

© Kevin Messenger

Ensatina salamander

Ensatina eschscholtzii

These salamanders can be found in locations ranging from Canada to the Baja Peninsula in Mexico and have geographic variation in colors and patterns.

© Wendy Herniman

Frosted flatwoods salamander

Ambystoma cingulatum

Once fairly common in the southeast coastal plain of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, flatwoods salamander populations have collapsed since the mid-20th century.

© Noah Mueller

Flat-tailed horned lizard

Phrynosoma mcallii

These horned lizards are found in the deserts of southern California, where they feed on ants and other small invertebrates.

© Rachel Allingham

Gila Monster

Heloderma suspectum

This large, relatively slow-moving lizard is native to the southwestern deserts, where it spends much of its time in burrows, thickets, and boulder formations.

© José Garrido

Gopher frog

Lithobates capito

Historically found in coastal plain regions from North Carolina to Alabama, gopher frog populations have dwindled to a handful of small, isolated populations in recent decades.

© Ron Grunwald

Hickory Nut Gorge green salamander

Aneides caryaensis

These animals have traits that sound like superpowers. They can climb just about anything, they’re lungless, and have skin secretions that fight bacteria, viruses, and fungal infections.

© José Garrido

Gopher tortoise

Gopherus polyphemus

The gopher tortoise shares its burrows with the gopher frog and other critters. They love open areas with lots of grass and a few pine trees.

© Eitan Grunwald

Houston toad

Anaxyrus houstonensis

Restricted to a small and rapidly shrinking range in southeast Texas, Houston toads live in dry uplands and breed in embedded shallow wetlands.

© johnwilliams

Long-nosed leopard lizard

Gambelia wislizenii

This lizard is an elegant beast with a tail that can be up to twice the length of its body. But it’s also a fearsome predator that literally eats mammals, like small mice.

© Eitan Grunwald

Ornate chorus frog

Pseudacris ornata

One of the most beautiful frogs in North America, the ornate chorus frog can be dark brown, reddish, light gray, tan, or green. Even the tadpoles are stunning.

© Kevin Messenger

Louisiana pine snake

Pituophis ruthveni

These snakes are closely associated with pocket gophers and use the gophers’ tunnels as shelter, while also preying on the gophers themselves.

© Scott Wahlberg

Pine snake

Pituophis melanoleucus

These snakes can reach up to six feet long and are extremely secretive and hard to find. They’re like the ninjas of the snake world and they spend most of their lives underground.

© Eitan Grunwald

Red Hills salamander

Phaeognathus hubrichti

This highly specialized species is restricted to the Red Hills region of southern Alabama, where it occurs on the damp, hardwood-dominated slopes of steep ravines. 

© Kevin Messenger

San Francisco garter snake

Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia

Limited to a small area southwest of downtown San Francisco, this colorful type of garter snake lives in the vicinity of a precious few remaining freshwater aquatic habitats.

© Andre Giraldi

Red-legged frog

Rana draytonii

These frogs have dorsal spots, vocal sacs, tympanic membranes, and glorious red legs. They eat everything from fish and dragonflies, to worms and snails.

© Grze Swis

Southern hognose snake

Heterodon simus

Using their upturned snout as a shovel, these snakes dig to avoid predators, escape weather extremes, and sniff out their favorite food (toads).

© Mike Martin

Weller’s salamander

Plethodon welleri

One of the most beautiful creatures you’ll ever see, their dark black body is splashed with metallic gold patches and looks like it could’ve been forged by a master jeweler.

© Dean Stavrides

Wood turtle

Glyptemys insculpta

These turtles a strikingly beautiful, with orange scales, golden-rimmed eyes, and yellow plastrons. They’re also very smart and are as capable as lab rats at finding food in a maze.

© Eitan Grunwald

Western Chicken Turtle

Deirochelys reticularia miaria

These turtles actually got their name not because of a physical feature, but because of how they apparently taste–like chicken.  They also have absurdly long necks.

© mfeaver

Alligator snapping turtle

Macrochelys temminckii

This is the largest freshwater turtle in North America, weighing in at over 200 pounds! They have an intimidating shell and jaws that can bite through a broom handle.

© John P. Friel Ph.D.

Bog turtle

Glyptemys muhlenbergii

Along the greater Appalachians, bog turtles require open canopy wetlands with mucky soils where they bury themselves to regulate body temperature and avoid predators.

© José Garrido

Box turtle

Terrapene carolina

These turtles can draw inside and close up their entire shell, helping them to thrive in all kinds of climates and habitats. They also have incredibly long lifespans, up to a century.

© Scott Byrd

Brazos water snake

Nerodia harteri

Often confused for the venomous water moccasin, the Brazos water snake has an ontogenetic shift–meaning the adults live in a different habitat than the juveniles.

© Jeff Jenkerson

Chiricahua leopard frog

Lithobates chiricahuensis

Native to New Mexico, Arizona and adjacent areas of Mexico, Chiricahua leopard frogs occur in the vicinity of a variety of aquatic habitats, especially near uplands and forested habitats.

© danyz

Collared Lizard

Crotaphytus collaris

These lizards are strikingly beautiful, with incredible coloration and fancy collars. They’re one of the few lizards that can run only on their hind legs.

© Eitan Grunwald

Desert tortoise

Gopherus agassizii

These turtles can draw inside and close up their entire shell, helping them to thrive in all kinds of climates and habitats. They also have incredibly long lifespans, up to a century.

© Sean Krieg

Eastern Hellbender

Cryptobranchus alleganiensis

At over two feet long with nicknames like “grampus” and “devil dog,” hellbenders are native to swift, clean, rocky streams in montane and plateau regions of the eastern United States.

© Kevin Messenger

Ensatina salamander

Ensatina eschscholtzii

These salamanders can be found in locations ranging from Canada to the Baja Peninsula in Mexico and have geographic variation in colors and patterns.

© Wendy Herniman

Flat-tailed horned lizard

Phrynosoma mcallii

These horned lizards are found in the deserts of southern California, where they feed on ants and other small invertebrates.

© Rachel Allingham

Frosted flatwoods salamander

Ambystoma cingulatum

Once fairly common in the southeast coastal plain of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, flatwoods salamander populations have collapsed since the mid-20th century.

© Noah Mueller

Gila Monster

Heloderma suspectum

This large, relatively slow-moving lizard is native to the southwestern deserts, where it spends much of its time in burrows, thickets, and boulder formations.

© José Garrido

Gopher frog

Lithobates capito

Historically found in coastal plain regions from North Carolina to Alabama, gopher frog populations have dwindled to a handful of small, isolated populations in recent decades.

© Ron Grunwald

Gopher tortoise

Gopherus polyphemus

The gopher tortoise shares its burrows with the gopher frog and other critters. They love open areas with lots of grass and a few pine trees.

© Eitan Grunwald

Hickory Nut Gorge green salamander

Aneides caryaensis

These animals have traits that sound like superpowers. They can climb just about anything, they’re lungless, and have skin secretions that fight bacteria, viruses, and fungal infections.

© José Garrido

Houston toad

Anaxyrus houstonensis

Restricted to a small and rapidly shrinking range in southeast Texas, Houston toads live in dry uplands and breed in embedded shallow wetlands.

© johnwilliams

Long-nosed leopard lizard

Gambelia wislizenii

This lizard is an elegant beast with a tail that can be up to twice the length of its body. But it’s also a fearsome predator that literally eats mammals, like small mice.

© Eitan Grunwald

Louisiana pine snake

Pituophis ruthveni

These snakes are closely associated with pocket gophers and use the gophers’ tunnels as shelter, while also preying on the gophers themselves.

© Scott Wahlberg

Ornate chorus frog

Pseudacris ornata

One of the most beautiful frogs in North America, the ornate chorus frog can be dark brown, reddish, light gray, tan, or green. Even the tadpoles are stunning.

© Kevin Messenger

Pine snake

Pituophis melanoleucus

These snakes can reach up to six feet long and are extremely secretive and hard to find. They’re like the ninjas of the snake world and they spend most of their lives underground.

© Eitan Grunwald

Red Hills salamander

Phaeognathus hubrichti

This highly specialized species is restricted to the Red Hills region of southern Alabama, where it occurs on the damp, hardwood-dominated slopes of steep ravines. 

© Kevin Messenger

Red-legged frog

Rana draytonii

These frogs have dorsal spots, vocal sacs, tympanic membranes, and glorious red legs. They eat everything from fish and dragonflies, to worms and snails.

© Grze Swis

San Francisco garter snake

Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia

Limited to a small area southwest of downtown San Francisco, this colorful type of garter snake lives in the vicinity of a precious few remaining freshwater aquatic habitats.

© Andre Giraldi

Southern hognose snake

Heterodon simus

Using their upturned snout as a shovel, these snakes dig to avoid predators, escape weather extremes, and sniff out their favorite food (toads).

© Mike Martin

Weller’s salamander

Plethodon welleri

One of the most beautiful creatures you’ll ever see, their dark black body is splashed with metallic gold patches and looks like it could’ve been forged by a master jeweler.

© Dean Stavrides

Western Chicken Turtle

Deirochelys reticularia miaria

These turtles actually got their name not because of a physical feature, but because of how they apparently taste–like chicken.  They also have absurdly long necks.

© mfeaver

Wood turtle

Glyptemys insculpta

These turtles a strikingly beautiful, with orange scales, golden-rimmed eyes, and yellow plastrons. They’re also very smart and are as capable as lab rats at finding food in a maze.

© Eitan Grunwald