NPS Photo by Dan Mohr.
The park is home to 14 species of snakes, 8 species of turtles, and two kinds of lizards. As with amphibians, many suffer population declines from habitat loss or fragmentation, illegal collection, and commercial exploitation. Of the park's 26 species, 8 are of "special concern" in one or both states (Pennsylvania or New Jersey), and one species -- the bog turtle -- is protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Commonly encountered reptiles include painted turtles and water snakes. In warm weather, both can often be spotted at one of the park's old farm ponds -- the turtle basking on a floating log and the snake draped over the branches of a shoreline shrub. Look for garter and ribbon snakes in adjacent wetlands. Paddlers on the Delaware River should keep a keen eye out for map turtles, which quietly slip off their basking rocks on close approach.
All too often, our reptilian encounters are with road kills. Please observe speed limits on all of the park's roadways. Turtles and snakes may travel long distances to and from their feeding, nesting, and hibernation sites -- and road crossings take their toll.
Among the least frequently encountered reptiles are the lizards and venomous snakes. Small populations of five-lined skinks, northern fence lizards, northern copperheads, and timber rattlesnakes all inhabit the park but are seldom seen. Hikers, especially on the Appalachian Trail, should learn to recognize our two venomous snakes and, if they encounter them, be sure to yield them the right-of-way and stay clear.
Did You Know?
... that hemlock groves in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area are threatened by a non-native insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid. Hemlocks provide shade for spectacular rhodondenron, for trout streams, and for native wildflowers. As hemlocks weaken and die, they are cut down for your safety. More...