(A new Quick Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of Colorado is available for downloading!)
Update: Colorado's State Reptile
A State Reptile for Colorado (Finally!)
On March 18th, 2008, Governor Bill Ritter signed legislation that made the Western painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) Colorado’s official state reptile. This modest Colorado native is found in lakes and ponds on the eastern plains, front range, and Southwest corner of the state. To learn more about the painted turtle and Colorado’s other 4 native turtles, please visit the Colorado Herpetofaunal Atlas website. A big ‘thank you’ to Mr. Jay Baichi’s class for bringing this legislation forward, and to Representative Cherylin Peniston and Senator Jennifer Viega for sponsoring the bill.
The current distribution, abundance, and population trends of many herpetofaunal (salamander, frog, toad, turtle, lizard, snake) species in Colorado are poorly known. Some species appear to be declining, but there is insufficient information to determine whether the decline is cause for alarm or simply part of a natural fluctuation pattern.
To address this lack of information, and thereby make better assessments of species' population trends, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has established the Colorado Herpetofaunal Atlas. This Web-based atlas will be used to compile and display information on the distribution and abundance of amphibians and reptiles throughout Colorado.
Since the launch of the website in 2004, over 500 people have signed up to be observers and hundreds of observations have been recorded. These users have also suggested many ways to improve the Atlas' Web site, and many of those suggestions will be implemented in the coming year—check periodically to see how things are progressing! (If you have any comments about or suggestions for the site, contact Tina Jackson.)Involve Your Class! Or Yourself!
Everyone is Welcome
The atlas website will allow scientists—and the public—to submit and document their observations of amphibians and reptiles. (All observation records are reviewed by an experienced herpetologist before being added to the website database.) Data gathered in this way will be used to create maps showing the statewide distribution of each species. To assist non-professionals, the atlas Web site contains photographs, species descriptions, and ecological information that can be used to identify species found in Colorado.
CPW is asking for volunteers to become involved in the Colorado Herptofaunal Atlas Project. Volunteers may attend introductory field/orientation sessions held at locations around the state. (Check back for dates and locations to-be-announced.) Sessions include an introduction to the Atlas Web site, hands-on field training, and how to document and submit herptofaunal observations. Attendance at a session is not required for participation in the project. (A .pdf file, Quick Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of Colorado—new, revised, and in full color—is available for participants to use when reporting observations.)
If you are interested in scheduling a field session for a group or school class, write to Tina Jackson or call 719/227-5237. Can't participate in this project? Find other ways you can assist the Colorado Parks and Wildlife and your state's natural resources through the Volunteer Program.