• North Carolina Partners in Amphibian & Reptile Conservation

PARCAS: Priority Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Areas

American Toad identification – © Kimberly Burge

NCPARC has developed Priority Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Areas (PARCAs) to raise public awareness of critical habitat in North Carolina. Find out more information about PARCAs on PARC’s website.

If you prefer to view or download all of the PARCA GIS layers, you can use the button below.

NC PARCA Descriptions

Links to individual PARCA layers are listed below with their detailed description.  Files provided are shapefiles which also include .zip files for upload to ArcGIS online unless otherwise noted.

Coastal Plain

1. Bladen Lakes PARCA -The Bladen lakes PARCA encompasses a largely rural landscape that includes a series of public lands with high ecological value. Extensive areas of unprotected land could serve as habitat connectors between these public lands, if managed for conservation. Priority conservation species known to occur in the PARCA include southern hognose snake, mimic glass lizard, ornate chorus frog, and Pine Barrens treefrog.

2. Carolina Bays PARCA – Located in the upper Coastal Plain, the Carolina Bays PARCA encompasses a particularly dense concentration of unique Carolina Bay wetlands. The bays in this PARCA are known to have supported exceptionally large numbers of rare pond breeding amphibians. Though some species have likely been lost from this area, priority species known to remain include the eastern tiger salamander, oak toad, dwarf salamander, eastern chicken turtle, southern chorus frog and Mabee’s salamander. Only very small areas of the PARCA are currently managed as natural habitat, though a high potential for conservation exists with future habitat restoration and management. Alternate Carolina Bays KMZ file

3. Croatan PARCA – Dominated by the Croatan National Forest, the Croatan PARCA also includes many pieces of adjacent unprotected land. A hotspot of diversity for reptiles and amphibians, conservation measures taken on some of these additional lands would prove highly beneficial. Species of note in the Croatan PARCA include gopher frog, ornate chorus frog, southern chorus frog, oak toad, Mabee’s salamander, mimic glass lizard, eastern chicken turtle and pigmy rattlesnake.

4. Green Swamp PARCA -Encompassing large tracts of managed habitat as well as significant areas of currently unprotected lands, the Green Swamp PARCA is known to support small populations of priority conservation species including the northern pine snake, mimic glass lizard, eastern chicken turtle and southern chorus frog. A high potential for conservation exists with the restoration of exceptionally large areas of currently undeveloped, but highly degraded habitats.

5. Holly Shelter/Lejeune PARCA – Largely comprised of Angola Bay, Stone’s Creek, and Holly Shelter game lands, along with Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, the Holly Shelter/Lejeune PARCA supports an extremely high diversity of reptiles and amphibians. Additionally, although these public land holdings are near or adjacent to one another, many opportunities for unprotected land conservation exist. Focal amphibian species include gopher frog, ornate chorus frog, southern chorus frog, and oak toad. Conservation concerns regarding reptiles include the best remaining NC population of eastern diamondback rattlesnake, good populations of chicken turtle, and nesting habitat for the loggerhead sea turtle.

6. Neuse/Tar River PARCA -The Neuse/Tar River PARCA follows the flows of the Neuse and Tar Rivers. Flowing from the Piedmont to the Coastal Plain, these two long rivers make up the entire known range of the Neuse River waterdog, a salamander endemic to North Carolina. Other priority species found within this PARCA include lesser siren and rainbow snake.

7. Pamlico PARCA -The Pamlico PARCA covers a very large area of the Pamlico Sound along with a large landmass in the Alligator River area. This PARCA is important for many species of turtles, both freshwater and salt water. The nesting beaches on the ocean-side in this area are not the highest density in the state, but they tend to be the coolest, hence they likely produce the least female-biased sex ratio of hatchlings. This, in turn, may become increasingly important in the face of climate change and projected warming in the region. The Pamlico Sound and adjacent creeks are “hotspots” for sea turtles, including loggerheads, Kemp’s ridleys and green turtles. They are also known to support good populations of diamondback terrapins. The freshwater sites within the Pamlico PARCA support large populations of spotted turtles as well as many other species. Alternate Pamlico KMZ file

8. Sandhills PARCA (KMZ file) – Characterized by deep, well drained soils, the Sandhills originally supported an extensive fire maintained, longleaf pine-wire grass community. The Sandhills PARCA includes several large tracts of public land that are managed as natural habitat as well as extensive areas of buffer and possible landscape-scale habitat connectors. Priority conservation species including the southern hognose snake, northern pine snake, eastern chicken turtle, eastern tiger salamander, Pine Barrens treefrog and gopher frog still occur in limited numbers in the Sandhills PARCA.

9. South Brunswick PARCA -The South Brunswick PARCA encompasses an area known to support an exceptionally diverse array of habitats and associated species including the northern pine snake, eastern chicken turtle, and gopher frog. While most of the remaining habitat in this PARCA is currently found on private property, a few small areas of high quality lands are managed with public resources. Significant potential for conservation exists in the South Brunswick PARCA.

Piedmont

10. Sauratown PARCA (KMZ file) – Rising sharply over 1000 feet above the surrounding landscape, the Sauratown Mountains dominate the scenery of the Sauratown PARCA. These piedmont monadnocks consist of forested ridges occasionally broken by open, rocky cliffs. Focal species include Wehrle’s salamander and timber rattlesnake.

11. South Mountains PARCA -The rugged landscape of the South Mountains chain, combined with cool and clear streams, create a unique topographical oasis in the western Piedmont of NC known as the South Mountains PARCA. Elevations rising up to 3,000 feet provide habitat for both the timber rattlesnake and the narrowly endemic South Mountains gray-cheeked salamander.

12. Uwharries PARCA (KMZ file) – The Uwharries PARCA contains some of the largest remaining tracts of wildlife and rare plant habitat in the North Carolina Piedmont and includes much of the Uwharrie Mountains, among the oldest mountain ranges in North America. Species of conservation concern known to occur in the Uwharries PARCA include mole salamander, four-toed salamander, and timber rattlesnake.

Mountain

13. Balsam/Pisgah PARCA – One of the larger PARCAs in the Mountains, the Balsam/Pisgah PARCA covers sections of five counties. Numerous rock outcrops, the headwaters of the French Broad River, and high quality high-elevation habitat characterize this PARCA. Significant populations of green salamander, eastern hellbender, mudpuppy, timber rattlesnake, and coal skink are present within the Balsam/Pisgah PARCA. The southern pigmy salamander is also found within the region.

14. French Broad PARCA – The French Broad PARCA follows the flow of the French Broad River. This PARCA encompasses important riverine and floodplain habitat for a high diversity of species. Significant populations exist in the French Broad PARCA of ambystomatid salamanders (marbled, mole, and spotted salamanders), four-toed salamander, southern zigzag salamander, common mudpuppy, and several aquatic turtle species (eastern spiny softshell, Cumberland slider, and stripe-neck musk turtle).

15. Grandfather/Unaka PARCA – High elevation spruce and northern hardwood habitats are found within the Grandfather/Unaka PARCA. Significant populations of Weller’s salamander and northern pigmy salamander are found within the PARCA. Additionally, the Grandfather/Unaka PARCA appears to comprise the northern extent of the range of the southern zigzag salamander.

16. Great Smoky Mountains PARCA – As its name suggests, the Great Smoky Mountains PARCA includes the NC portion of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This area is known for its exceptionally high salamander diversity due to the presence of rich coves along with pristine riverine habitat. Species of note in the area include Junaluska salamander, Tellico salamander, Cheoah Bald salamander, imitator salamander, and southern zigzag salamander.

17. Hickory Nut Gorge PARCA – The Hickory Nut Gorge PARCA represents steep, rocky gorges, riverine floodplain, low to mid-elevation rock outcrop, granitic dome and rocky bald habitats, and includes large tracts of public land. Focal species include timber rattlesnake, coal skink, a disjunct population of green salamander, and two endemics – crevice salamander and Blue Ridge gray-cheeked salamander.

18. Hiwassee PARCA -Although in the mountain physiographic region, the Hiwassee PARCA includes unique vegetation communities including sandy soils from the pine type ecoregion. Due to these unique communities, the Hiwassee area has a high diversity of species which includes unique piedmont/coastal plain ecotone species. Focal species for the Hiwassee PARCA include mountain chorus frog, stripe-neck musk turtle, common map turtle, northern pine snake, eastern slender glass lizard, and Chattahoochee salamander.

19. Nantahala PARCA – The area encompassed by the Nantahala PARCA includes large tracts of public land with high species diversity. Of particular note in the region are floodplain wetlands and ephemeral pool habitat. Nantahala PARCA focal species include bog turtle, dwarf blackbelly salamander, mole salamander, spotted salamander, red-legged salamander, and longtail salamander.

20. South Fork New River PARCA – The South Fork New River PARCA includes the most ecologically intact Southern Appalachian mountain bog complex including the state’s most significant bog turtle populations. The mid- to high-elevation rocky slopes are home to NC’s most significant populations of Wehrle’s salamander.