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Tips for Finding Reptiles and Amphibians

Checking snake coverboards, permitted researchers © Smera Sukumar


Review our interactive species map with all the known ranges of all reptile and amphibian species in Ontario.

Remember, reptiles and amphibians are ectothermic, meaning that their body temperature is determined by the surrounding environment. In order to regulate their body temperature, they have to move into the sun to warm up and the shade to cool down.

BioBlitz © David Coulson


Below are some tips of where to look for reptiles at certain temperatures:

  • Cooler than 15 C: Reptiles are generally hidden or hibernating.
  • 15–25 C: Reptiles may bask in the sun (cool, sunny mornings are a good time to look), or bask under thin pieces of wood, metal or rocks that absorb the sun’s heat.
  • 15–30 C: Reptiles are most active.
  • Warmer than 30 C: Reptiles are generally hidden – some even hibernate from mid-July to mid-August.
Eastern ribbonsnake © Ryan Wolfe


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.

Instead you can look for them during different weather conditions:

  • During rains: 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: 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.
Red-spotted newt eft © Scott Gllingwater

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

  • Looking under logs, rocks, or leaf clumps in the forest to find salamanders (and even toads).
  • When flipping natural cover objects, be sure to return them to their original position, while being careful not to crush anything underneath.
  • Snakes are commonly found under rocks, boards and scrap metal.
Red-backed salamander under coverboard © Lynn Miller

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 reptiles and amphibians to regulate their body temperature.
  • Forests next to open fields, rock barrens or meadows are a favourite of many reptiles.
American bullfrog © Ken Morrison

Watch The Road

Reptiles and amphibians are often crossing the road or using it for nesting habitat, leading to them being run over. If you find animals on or adjacent to 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 may try to cross the road again.

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

If you find an injured turtle please call the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre. If you find an injured snake please look for a nearby rehabilitation facility in this list.

Snapping turtle © Seabamirum CC BY 2.0

Timing To Be Alert

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 for gravel roads or the shoulders of paved roads provide excellent nesting materials for pregnant female turtles, who will often be attracted to 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 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.
Eastern foxsnake © Joe Crowley

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