There are five species of terrestrial turtles and seven species of snakes recorded for the island.  Populations of snakes and turtles have declined significantly over the last half century, particularly box turtles and black racers. These declines are likely due to overabundant skunk, raccoon, and crows preying on both the adults and their eggs as well as mortality on roads. Populations of these predators are bolstered by food subsidies offered by humans, which include seed from bird feeders, open compost piles, and accessible food waste in trash bins.

The only terrestrial “herps” ever recorded on Nomans Land Island National Wildlife Refuge are the Garter Snake and three species of turtles, one of which (spotted) is rare in the rest of Massachusetts but moderately common on Nomans.

The true status of the five species of ocean turtles that have been recorded here is largely unknown. The only one that can be safely identified at sea is the Leatherback because of its large size and distinctive anatomy. The Atlantic Loggerhead is thought to be uncommon only because dead or cold-stunned individuals are found more often than the other three species that are about the same size. Atlantic Ridley and Atlantic Green Turtles are probably the least frequent based on their overall known occurrence in eastern Massachusetts.

Lazell (1976), DeGraaf and Rudis (1983), and MassWildlife’s Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Massachusetts (2016) are the best references for our local species.

Allan Keith; edited by Luanne Johnson, June 16, 2022


DeGraaf, R. M. and D. D. Rudis. 1983. Amphibians and reptiles of New England. University of Massachusetts Press. 85 pp.

Lazell, J. D. Jr. 1976. This broken archipelago – Cape Cod and the islands, amphibians and reptiles. The New York Times Book Co. 260 pp.

Web Resources: Maintained by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, this page provides a county-level checklist for reptiles and amphibians in the state. Based on a statewide atlas project coordinated by the University of Massachusetts, 1992-1998. Includes some life history information and identification aids.