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In 1939, the Board of Fish Commissioners (now the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission) published its biennial report for 1936-1938. Included in the document were earlier published works and a new contribution on Pennsylvania amphibians and reptiles by M. Graham Netting, the curator of herpetology at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. A revised and annotated list of species prepared by Dr. Netting was subsequently published by the Board in 1946 under the title "The Amphibians and Reptiles of Pennsylvania," and reprinted in 1949.

An article (picture story) on salamanders in the April 1949 Pennsylvania Angler was the first of a series of similar monthly Angler articles about Pennsylvania reptiles and amphibians by Hal H. Harrison that concluded with an article on lizards in October 1950. Each article was edited and approved by M. Graham Netting. Subsequently, these separate articles were assembled in a single reprint issue entitled "Pennsylvania Reptiles and Amphibians," which reached its third edition in 1957.

In 1974, this edition was printed for the seventh time. The illustrations and species accounts were revised and updated by M. Graham Netting, director, and Neil D. Richmond, curator of amphibians and reptiles, of the Carnegie Museum. In 1974, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission sought and received official jurisdiction for all amphibians and reptiles in the Commonwealth, including those species that could be considered endangered, threatened, or of other special concern status. New regulations were promulgated to provide for the better protection and management of this resource.

"Pennsylvania Reptiles and Amphibians" was reprinted again in 1976 and a new page was added that replaced the picture story entitled "Hunting Rattlesnakes." The new page featured illustrations and brief text concerning the distribution of our three venomous snakes and physical characteristics useful in distinguishing venomous and nonvenomous snakes in Pennsylvania. Until recently, this 1976 edition was reprinted without change at two- to three-year intervals.

Thus, for nearly 50 years the Commission has published and reprinted several contributions concerning the identification, composition, distribution and ecology of Pennsylvania amphibians and reptiles.

In addition, pursuant to goals embodied in its "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife Species" project, the Commission provided financial support for preparation of a manuscript by Clarence J. McCoy, curator, Section of Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carnegie Museum, entitled "Amphibians and Reptiles in Pennsylvania." Published by the Carnegie Museum as Special Publication No. 6 in 1982, this work treats the taxonomy, status, distribution and bibliography of each species of amphibian and reptile known or suspected to occur in Pennsylvania.

Larry Shaffer has drawn on the information compiled and published in these and other contributions to assemble the information presented in this publication. This blend of long-standing and more recent information was prepared with the non-specialist in mind, but specialists should also find it a useful compilation. Embodied in the preparation and production of every publication are certain expectations about the purposes and needs that the publication will fulfill. There are continual needs for easily understandable and available information about amphibians and reptiles that are current and technically correct. Like its predecessors, this publication meets those needs.

Appropriately, Larry Shaffer addresses this need to know as much as we can about amphibians and reptiles in his concluding remarks in the Preface, because only through this knowledge can biased or erroneous information about these animals be dispelled. Possession of current information, however, may become an end in itself for many people. Mere knowledge or awareness, though a necessary part of the process, cannot bring about actions required to manage, enhance and protect these animals properly for their benefit and ours. As Larry Shaffer points out, our lack of understanding about their ecological roles and loss of habitat are problems facing them. These require the mobilization of a variety of human resources if they are to be solved. The fact that these problems continue to exist is perhaps pathetic testimony to the length of time we have been merely content to "raise awareness" or receive information about amphibians and reptiles.

Fortunately, the level of "environmental awareness" is as high today as it has ever been, and increasing numbers of people are actively seeking and acting on a growing body of new information about the status of our physical environment and the other living things we share with it. This publication is ultimately most useful as a tool for the furtherance of amphibian and reptile conservation in Pennsylvania.

Clark Shiffer
Former Herpetology and Endangered
Species Coordinator
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission