Reports of Reptiles and Amphibians Help Shape Michigan Management Strategies

By Mary Bohling|March 23, 2015

Photo courtesy of DTE Energy.

Photo courtesy of DTE Energy.

The Michigan Herp Atlas Program is seeking assistance from people who observe reptiles and amphibians (collectively known as herpetofauna) in their natural habitats across Michigan. According to Program Administrator David Mifsud, volunteer observations are critical to the success of the project. More than 60% of Michigan’s amphibians and reptiles are listed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources as Species of Greatest Conservation Need. These imperiled species are important indicators of the quality of our natural resources and are a critical part of healthy, functioning ecosystems—plus they’re fascinating to observe.

Get Involved: It is easy and rewarding to contribute observations to the Michigan Herp Atlas Program. You can contribute online at Data can be emailed or mailed, too; contact David Mifsud ( ) for more information. All data are summarized and publically displayed at the county level to ensure your privacy and the protection of herpetofauna.

Time Commitment: The Michigan Herp Atlas Program provides opportunities for involvement at all levels, based on participants’ interest and availability. Any and all observations you submit—from the midland painted turtle basking in a city park, to the American toad your child finds while in the yard, to the dead turtle on the road—provide important information and are much appreciated!

Skill Level Needed: Although not required, observers should be able to identify various species of amphibians and reptiles found in Michigan or take a clear photograph of the observed animal. If you are unsure of a species, you can provide information (including a photo) and we can ID the species for you. There are a number of useful resources for identification including the MDNR, HRM, University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web, and Michigan Natural Features Inventory websites.

Photo courtesy of Waste Management.

Photo courtesy of Waste Management.

Special Equipment Needed: Though not required, photo documentation (especially of rare species) is encouraged. When looking for amphibians and reptiles it is often helpful to have a camera (one on your phone often works just fine) and something to write down information. Binoculars can also help with identification and make the herping experience that much more enjoyable!

Other Things to Consider: Please handle amphibians and reptiles as little as possible. Amphibians have very sensitive skin and many species of herpetofauna can bite if they feel threatened. It is best to enjoy them in their natural habitat and with as little stress to them as possible.

Getting Started: The first thing you need is the interest and willingness to help protect and conserve reptiles and amphibians. To enter your observations on the Michigan Herp Atlas website, a simple, two-minute registration process is all you need to get started.

Join the everyday people across Michigan who are contributing their time to collect information that will advance our knowledge and understanding of the state’s bountiful natural resources.

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