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Mind the Gap

Blue-spotted salamander Joe Crowley

blue-spotted salamander, credit: Joe Crowley

Support the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas by submitting sightings in underreported areas

The onset of spring is an exciting time of year for outdoor enthusiasts as the veil of winter is lifted from our wetlands, forests and meadows.

If you enjoy the wonders of nature, there are many reasons to get outside this spring. From the emergence of the iconic, ephemeral trillium that carpets the floor of deciduous forests to the return of songbirds from their wintering grounds.

But one spring phenomenon often goes unnoticed; the awakening of reptiles and amphibians. You can find these hidden, secretive creatures occupying a wide range of habitats. Turn over a log and you may find a common eastern red-backed salamander, or if you’re lucky, a spotted salamander, one of Ontario’s largest salamanders. Even a leisurely walk along a pond or wetland can reveal American toads or spring peepers.

spring peeper, credit: Scott Gillingwater

spring peeper, credit: Scott Gillingwater

Ambystoma laterale, QUBS ON, June 2011

juvenile blue-spotted salamander, credit: Nick Cairns

Ontario is home to 47 reptile and amphibian species. Commonly known as turtles, snakes, lizards, salamanders, frogs and toads, these animals are unique, specialized, and fascinating.

Led by Ontario Nature since 2009, the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas (ORAA) engages people of all backgrounds in gathering data that tracks the distributions and spatial trends of reptiles and amphibians across the province. To track sightings, the ORAA is divided into a grid of 10 x 10 kilometre squares.


Each square is categorized by colour; yellow squares represent “recent” sightings reported in 1997 or later, red squares represent “historical” sightings reported before 1997 and green squares represent both historic and recent sightings. Blank squares have no associated records.

Reptiles and amphibians are declining globally, with 75 percent of reptiles and 22 percent of amphibians in Ontario listed as at-risk. They are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, road mortality, persecution, illegal collection and pollution.

But some areas haven’t had any reported observations in over twenty years. This makes it difficult for us to know what’s happening there.

Please help us by reporting reptile and amphibian sightings in areas where we have little information. Sightings can be of common or rare species and alive or dead animals. You can submit them through our updated smartphone app. To learn more, visit: ontarionature.org/atlas.

submitting a red-backed salamander observation with the new ORAA smartphone app, credit: Noah Cole

submitting a red-backed salamander observation with the new ORAA smartphone app, credit: Noah Cole

The ORAA maps the location of some of Ontario’s most enigmatic creatures. Its core concept is simple. If you see a turtle, snake, frog, or salamander, let us know.

This work is possible thanks to generous funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and Government of Ontario’s Species at Risk Stewardship Fund.

Emma_Horrigan_1_NDC_DSCN0510_smallEmma Horrigan is Ontario Nature’s Citizen Science Coordinator


Free, prior and informed consent – Where conservation can support human rights


Sleuthing for Salamanders


  1. Karen Nystrom

    Again………..nothing offered for northern and northwestern Ontario. We don’t exist, except for our money.

    • Ontario Nature

      Hi Karen,

      Thanks for your comment. With our Mind the Gap campaign we’re drawing awareness to under-reported areas like the ones in northern Ontario. We encourage anyone across the province to take advantage of our free, easy-to-use Reptile and Amphibian Atlas app to report their sightings so we can fill data gaps in these areas. This data helps inform our conservation work!

  2. How do we know which areas are under-reported?

    • Ontario Nature

      Hi Stew,
      Thanks for your comment! You can view our interactive range maps here: https://www.ontarionature.org/oraa/maps/

      Areas without any coloured squares are the most under-reported with no associated records to date. Red squares represent “historical” sightings reported before 1995, green squares represent both historic and recent sightings and yellow squares represent “recent” sightings reported in 1995 or later.

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