There are 79 species of reptiles and amphibians in New Jersey including these turtles and snakes. Although often found near water, many reptiles are adapted to life on dry land. They have lungs and their skin is covered with scales or plates. Most reptiles lay large leathery eggs in concealed nests. Unlike amphibians, young reptiles resemble their parents from birth and do not undergo a separate larval stage. Reptiles are cold-blooded, therefore they are inactive during winter.
TIMBER RATTLESNAKE- ( crotalus h.
The timber rattlesnake is one of New Jersey's most endangered species. They are very shy and hard to see, find, and monitor. They prefer rocky, mountainous areas and the uplands near them in the northern part of the state. When found in the southern half, they occur near cedar swamps and nearby areas. The females can only have babies when the are about 9 years old and only have babies once or twice in their entire lifetime.
The Timber Rattlesnake is a top predator in the eastern North America but is found nowhere else in the world. Along with bats, it is a misunderstood species. People often believe they are a serious threat to people, pets and livestock. Stories and myths teach fear of snakes. Across the U.S. they are still harassed and killed out of fear and ignorance, and by commercial hunters, who sell body parts for leather, meat and trinkets. People will destroy their homes to get rid of them, unaware that they are disrupting the ecosystem and that the snake plays an important role in rodent control.
No new dens were found during the 1998 survey.
NORTHERN PINE SNAKE- (Pituophis melanoleucus)
This snake likes flat, dry, sandy areas. It is one of the few snakes that burrow in open sandy fields. it mostly travels on the ground and occasionally climbs trees. It is spotted mostly in June and July in the afternoon. It feeds on rabbits, rodents, birds, and their eggs. It uses constriction to overpower its prey. When approached it will loudly hiss and vibrate its tail - so you would think it is a rattlesnake! But it is a constrictor that squeezes its prey and will not strike. They are found in Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Monmouth, and Ocean counties. This powerful and large snake - averaging 4 to 5 feet long - looks scary, but is fangless and will rarely be spotted, since it will avoid people. They need forest areas to lay eggs and hunt for food. They live well in the Pine Barrens because when fires occur, it clears the forest floor for them.
CORN SNAKE- (Elaphe guttata)
This snakes grows from 18-72 inches long. It has a light grayish-brown top and its underside has 42 -55 spots. The spots are a deep reddish-brown and are shaped like a saddle. They have a pair of dark lines near the neck which join to form a spear point shape between the eyes. It has about 25-35 rows of scales that are mostly smooth. It lives in the woods, cornfields, outbuildings, roadsides, prairies, plains, and at times will come in contact with people. It can't climb trees and is a ground dweller.
WOOD TURTLE- ( clemmys insculpta )
This turtle lives in forest and fields and lays its eggs in clear rocky streams. Its status in NJ is threatened. They mainly feed on water insects and tadpoles. This turtle is one of the more intelligent turtles. It can navigate its way through a maze just as well as a lab mouse. This turtle may have been named because it likes wooded areas or because of its shell which looks like a piece of wood. It is not a great swimmer but it prefers to stay near the edge of fast moving water. Summer homes are usually wetlands and they spend much of there time living in streams with good water quality. The wood turtle is very gentle and it won't even bite if a human picks it up. The decline of the wood turtle is due primarily to collection by people as pets (which is against the law), harvesting by pet stores, road kills, raccoons and loss of their home habitat. It takes a long time for a wood turtle to grow up - about 20 years. When the female lays eggs, most will be eaten by predators and surviving young will also be eaten during their first year when they are most vulnerable.
BOG TURTLE ( clemmys muhlenbergi)
This is a small (5-8 inches , 14-20 centimeters) , brown shelled turtle with a, distinctive, large yellow to red blotch behind each eye. It will fit in the palm of your hand. You will not often get to see it since it spends a lot of time buried in mud in hidden in wetlands plants. It was listed as endangered in NJ in 1974 and its numbers have decreased since then. In 1997 it became federally threatened. Their problems indicate problems with the water quality in their habitat. Their habitat is called a limestone fen wetland, found primarily in the "limestone belt" of northern NJ in Sussex & Warren counties and are connected to major streams in those areas - such as the Walkill, Paulinskill & Pequest. There are 53 known bog turtle sites, but only 8 are classified as "good." 90% of their habitat is on private lands, so it takes cooperation with landowners to monitor & protect them. They are always found near water but are not good swimmers and will drown if forced to stay under water. They are one of the most terrestrial (land living) turtles. Eggs are left on raised areas of grass or plants to keep them dry.
A note about sea turtles - All 5 Atlantic Ocean sea turtles have been recorded in coastal or Delaware Bay waters, but they will rarely ever be seen on shore unless washed up injured or dead on beaches.
This is the largest turtles in the world! An adult leatherback turtle can grow to 8 ft. in length and 12 ft. in width and weigh up 1,600 pounds! The female lays 90- 130 eggs per nest. The leatherback turtle is also the only turtle that has a back made of skin and not bone. The younger turtles have more of a mosaic appearance on their back. They eat both meat and plants (omnivorous.) The leatherback is regularly seen in NJ coastal waters in summer and from a distance, because of its size it may look like an overturned rowboat! They have a throat that is lined with spikes that allow them to eat jellyfish. They can be harmed by helium balloons that are released and end up in the ocean where they are swallowed (inflated, deflated or broken) by turtles and other marine species.
ATLANTIC LOGGERHEAD TURTLE- (Caretta caretta)
This is one of the largest sea turtles in the world. They grow to about 4-5 ft. long and weigh 300 pounds. Some giants occasionally can grow to 8 ft. long and weigh 1,000 pounds! They mainly feed on crabs, shrimp, oysters, clams, and even fish that it can catch. Females lay 120-160 eggs and often lay 2-3 times per single season. There eggs are valued delicacy food in some parts of the world. This has contributed to their decline. Like other sea turtles, they can also become trapped in fishing nets & lines of commercial fishing boats and then they will be drowned. Their habitat is also threatened when they cannot use their traditional beach areas for egg laying because of the interference of people or construction.
ATLANTIC RIDLEY-(kepidochelys kempi)
The Atlantic Ridley has a heart shaped shell. It's a pale yellow-gray color. The bridge and front part of the body are white and the upper sides, top of head, and flippers are gray. This is the smallest marine turtle. The adult turtle usually ranges to 58-70 cm. in length and weigh 30-45 kg. There are threatened by loss of their nesting beaches and death by drowning in shrimp trawls.
ATLANTIC GREEN TURTLE ( chelonia mydas)
The green sea turtle is the largest hard-shelled sea turtle (100 cm in length & weighing 150 kg. Their carapace (shell) starts as black in color but becomes shades of gray, green, brown & black in swirls & patterns as they age. They grow slowly and have not been well monitored in the wild. The females become sexually mature at 20-50 years. They deposit their eggs on beaches, usually island beaches, above the high water line. The young are omnivorous ( feeding on meat & vegetables) but as hey age becoming herbivores eating sea grasses & algae. In many parts of the world these turtles are still hunted for their skins, meat and shells. The largest populations are south of NJ in Florida and even farther south off the South American coast. Populations that once existed in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands are now extinct.
ATLANTIC HAWKSBILL TURTLE ( eretmochelys imbricata)
These turtles are very tropical and are usually found far south of NJ waters. Though not hunted in our waters, they are hunted in other places such as China & India for their "tortoise shell" which is prized for jewelry because of its bright colors. Their meat & eggs are eaten by humans as food.
The young are very open to predators in their first 2 years. The eggs are eaten by crabs, raccoons, skunks, possums and others. Even as they get larger, they are often the food of sharks. They grow to about 36 inches in length & are considered to be in the small-medium turtle range. They are often he victims of drowning from trawler nets by shrimp boats. Females produce fertile eggs at around 4 years and return to beaches where they themselves were hatched to lay their clutch (a group of eggs). Therefore when their beach nesting area has been developed or disturbed, entire generations of turtles may be affected. The exact population size of this species is not known, but based on sighting seems to be declining.