Species Profiles - Amphibians and Reptiles

Worldwide, largely due to accelerating global trade, invasive species are being introduced at an increasing rate. In North America, invasive species of amphibians and reptiles are largely limited to warmer latitudes, with a currently known total of 53 species having been introduced to the U.S. and its territories (McCoid and Kleberg 2006). Some of these species are capable of having major impacts on local ecosystems. One notorious example is the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis), which has caused severe ecological and sociological impacts in Guam. On that island, it has all but eliminated the forest avifauna and is responsible for the extinction of several endemic bird species. Accidental and intentional releases of amphibians and reptiles are also causing significant ecosystem disruptions in the southeastern United States (particularly in Florida) where, because of the warm, moist climate, the species have established breeding populations.

In Pennsylvania, there are no known invasive amphibian species and only two invasive reptiles. The red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) and the yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys scripta scripta) turtles have established breeding populations in the commonwealth, particularly in the southeastern and southcentral counties. Both of these invasive turtle species are aggressive competitors for food, basking sites, and breeding habitat and represent significant threats to many native Pennsylvania turtle species including the red-bellied turtle (Pseudemys rubriventris) that is state listed as threatened. The rapid spread of both slider species is attributed to the intentional release of captive turtles that were kept as pets. Owners of the turtles, confronted with animals that have rapidly outgrown their holding tanks and despite state law that makes it illegal to release any nonnative species, release the now sexually mature sliders into local waters in a well meaning but misguided attempt to preserve their pets’ lives.

Note: The table below contains examples of Amphibians and Reptiles with invasive characteristics that are of concern in the World, the Nation or in the Commonwealth. Please refer to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website for current information on the regulatory status of these or other Amphibians and Retiles in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. [Revised 4/10/2008]


Incidental PA Occurrences *
Widespread PA Occurrences

*Do not survive because of cold temperature intolerance or other factors.

  • Species listed above are just some of the species that were mentioned in the various Council documents
    published in 2006 and this is not a comprehensive list of invasive species in this group for Pennsylvania.

  • Whenever possible, we have linked to a Pennsylvania specific fact sheet or a federal fact sheet.
For more information on Invasive Species of National concern visit the
National Invasive Species Information Center or the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species websites.
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