Joe Crowley

Tips for Finding Reptiles and Amphibians

Please read the atlas policy and guidelines for more information and some great tips before you begin searching for reptiles and amphibians.

1. Use our interactive species map

To view the known ranges of all reptile and amphibian species in Ontario, click here.

2. Think like an ectotherm

Remember, reptiles and amphibians are ectothermic, meaning that their body temperature is determined by their environment. In order to regulate their body temperature, they have to move to a warmer area to warm up or a cooler area to cool down.

Reptiles

  • Cooler than 15: Reptiles are generally hidden or hibernating.
  • 15-25: Reptiles may be basking in the sun (cool, sunny mornings are a good time to look), or basking under thin pieces of wood, metal or rocks that absorb the sun’s heat.
  • 15-30: Reptiles are most active.
  • Warmer than 30: Reptiles are generally hidden. Some species even go into aestivation (summer hibernation) mid July to mid August.

Amphibians

Amphibians will dry out if they spend too much time in hot, dry environments. When in water, amphibians can generally be observed under a wider range of temperatures than reptiles. Some species of frogs and salamanders are active in the early spring before the ice has fully melted.

Amphibians tend to wait for rain to move longer distances. Sometimes thousands of frogs or salamanders move in mass migrations on warm, rainy nights.

On hot, dry days the aquatic frogs (including green, mink and bullfrogs) will not be far from the water. The more terrestrial frogs (such as tree frog, spring peepers, leopard frog and wood frog) and toads will generally be found in the cool shade of the forest understory.

3. Know where to look

Although reptiles and amphibians can be found in a diversity of habitats, there are places where higher numbers and greater species diversity are more likely:

Under cover

  • Replace cover objects properly and be careful not to crush anything that may be living there. When you lift the object you will see an outline of where it was. Make sure animals are out of the way, and then place the object on the outline so the habitat underneath doesn’t dry out.
  • Snakes are commonly found under rocks, boards and scrap metal that warm up quickly in the sun.
  • Looking under logs, rocks, or leaf clumps in the forest is the best way to find salamanders (and even toads).

Wetlands and shorelines

  • Shorelines and wetlands (such as fens, bogs, swamps, meadows and marshes) are home to a high diversity of reptiles and amphibians.
  • Newts, watersnakes, ribbonsnakes, many species of frogs and several turtle species can all be found in these shallow water areas.
  • Most frogs and salamanders congregate in wetlands during their breeding season (usually spring and early summer) and can be found easily during these times.

Edge habitats

  • Areas where one type of habitat meets another provide better opportunities for thermoregulation. For example, moving between a cool forest and a sunny meadow allows a snake to better control its temperature than if it stayed just in the sunny meadow.
  • Forests next to open fields, rock barrens, or meadows are a favourite edge habitat of many reptiles.

4. Watch the road

It is very dangerous to stop on roadsides or walk on roads. Do not stop for animals unless you can do so safely.

Reptiles and amphibians are often run over. If you find animals on the road and it is safe for you to pull over, help them across. If you help a reptile or amphibian cross the road, always move it in the direction it was going, regardless of which side of the road looks like better habitat. If you move it back to the side it came from, the animal will try to cross the road again. Reptiles and amphibians are more likely to be encountered on the road in certain situations.

  • Turtles: During nesting season from late May to late June. The gravel used in gravel roads or the shoulders of paved roads provide excellent nesting materials for gravid turtles, which will often be attracted to the roads to lay their eggs. Nesting turtles may spend hours on the road, putting them at high risk of road mortality.
  • Snakes: On sunny days, either because they are basking on the warm pavement, or because they are more active on those days and therefore more likely to come across a road.
  • Amphibians: When it is raining. Several species undergo mass migrations on rainy nights, and thousands of frogs or salamanders can be observed moving across a single road.

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