They’re older than dinosaurs – that could explain why they would rather sleep the Alberta winters away. All other vertebrates on Earth owe their existence to them, they are amphibians and our province is home to nine amphibian species.
Finding a place to crash
In Alberta, most of our amphibians hibernate in the ground below the treeline. Two species of frogs hibernate in the mud at the bottom of ponds, one of which is the threatened northern leopard frog.
Most amphibians have poor digging ability, so rely on small mammal burrows or soft, sandy soil for hibernation sites.
Hibernation sites are essential for survival, and may be limiting – some species have been documented to travel long distances to hibernate, suggesting that these sites are not readily available
Hit the road Sally!
In fact, in Waterton Lake National Park, they built an underpass to accommodate long-toed salamander migration. The underpass saves many from getting killed on the roadway – that is one dangerous way to get to bed.
Time to grow
Most tadpoles metamorphose at the end of the summer and hibernate as young adults; however, at high elevations, some amphibians may overwinter as tadpoles because summers are shorter/cooler, and it may require two summers to metamorphose.
A frozen frog that can still croak
The wood frog is the only species of amphibian that can be found north of the Arctic Circle; it is very cold tolerant and can withstand a certain amount of freezing.
One thing is for sure, we want our amphibian species around for a long time. Besides looking out for their welfare, one of the most important things you can do is become an observer through the Alberta Volunteer Amphibian Monitoring Program and help conserve amphibian populations.
Most of Alberta’s amphibians have already hunkered down for their winter naps…probably dreaming of a warm, wet April when they will again come out to play!