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Slither into spring: keep an eye out for urban reptiles

Centretown Buzz,
adapted content,
April 12 2016

A few reptiles and amphibians have already been spotted in Ottawa this spring. But with the warmer weather, this week will rouse scores more. On a leisurely shoreline stroll you may spot a spring peeper or Blanding’s turtle. If you turn over a log, you may find a red-spotted newt or milksnake.

The onset of spring is an exciting time of year for outdoor enthusiasts as the veil of winter’s slumber is lifted from our wetlands, forests and meadows. The awakening of reptiles and amphibians is happening right at our feet.

“Spring is one of my favorite times of year and is distinctively marked by the unique calls of different species of frogs and toads. The early season calls of wood and chorus frogs as well as spring peepers bring the night alive with sound,” says Emma Horrigan, Ontario Nature’s citizen science coordinator.

Sadly though, reptiles and amphibians are experiencing global declines of 20 and 40 percent respectively. In Ontario, 75 percent of reptiles and 22 percent of amphibians are listed as at risk provincially. These turtles, snakes, lizards, salamanders, frogs and toads have unique, specialized and fascinating life histories. But they suffer terribly from habitat loss and fragmentation, road mortality, persecution and pollution.

You can help by enlisting as a citizen scientist for the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas, which has been led by Ontario Nature since 2009. The data submitted by people of all skill levels is used to map the whereabouts of some of the province’s most enigmatic creatures. Ontario Nature’s goal this spring is to fill in key data gaps where there are no recent sightings. While you’re enjoying the nice weather this week, keep an eye out for reptiles and amphibians. They have fascinating traits and adaptations, and you can help their plight simply by reporting your sightings.