Summer has officially started! Our amphibian friends are doing their best to keep cool and babies will be making their way from water to land later in the summer.
While summer is a time of relaxation and fun, many amphibian species in the world are facing an alarming decline in their numbers. To understand what is happening within populations, we need to study and monitor to establish if populations are stable or declining.
So if you see an amphibian how can you identify it?
You don’t have to kiss a frog.
Frogs can be distinguished from toads because they have extensively webbed hind feet and don’t have very warty skin.
In Alberta, there are three true frog species:
Alberta is also home to one tree frog species. The boreal (or striped) chorus frog looks very “froglike” but it lacks the dorsolateral folds along its back and webbing between its toes found in true frogs.
Get to know a toad.
True toads have a number of characteristic features including warty skin, enlarged parotoid (poison) glands on the shoulders and little webbing on hind feet. In Alberta, there are three true toads:
In addition to Alberta’s three true toad species, there is one member of the Spadefoot family, the plains spadefoot. How do we know the difference? Spadefoots lack the enlarged parotoid gland and they are less warty than true toads.
If it feels like a frog but looks like a lizard – it must be a salamander!
Although there are four families of salamanders native to Canada, only one is present in Alberta, mole salamanders – named such because they are seldom seen above ground.
We have two of these salamander species in Alberta:
Salamanders are relatively large amphibians with long tails and they are the strong silent type, never vocalizing – unlike their frog and toad cousins.
What can you do to help our amphibian populations?
Avoid disturbing or destroying natural habitats, especially shoreline areas around creeks, rivers and ponds;
- Be sure you don’t litter natural habitats with garbage, including pet waste, to avoid polluting the land or water;
- Keep pets out of creeks, ponds and other water bodies; and
- Don’t attempt to catch or handle frogs, salamanders or tadpoles – these animals absorb air and water through their skin. Perspiration, oils, lotions, or insect repellent from our hands can be absorbed by these animals seriously harming or killing them.
If you are you a frog fanatic or totally toad-minded, the Alberta Conservation Association has some amphibian identification materials that you can check out!
We want our amphibian species around for a long time. One of the most important things you can do to make this happen is to report what you see. Become an observer through the Alberta Volunteer Amphibian Monitoring Program and become a champion of our amphibian friends.