Alberta’s Happy Hibernators: Amphibians

This is part three of a six part series on hibernators. You can find the first two parts on bears and bats here.

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.


Long-toed Salamander

Finding a place to crash


Boreal (Western) Toad

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!


Salamander crossing sign – Bow Valley Campground in Kananaskis

Both tiger and long-toed salamanders have been known to have “mass migrations” between hibernation sites and breeding ponds.

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.

WOFR2 BernieGA 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!

3 thoughts on “Alberta’s Happy Hibernators: Amphibians

  1. Pingback: Alberta’s Happy Hibernators: Reptiles | Alberta Environment and Parks

  2. Pingback: Alberta’s Happy Hibernators: Mammals | Alberta Environment and Parks

  3. Pingback: Alberta’s Happy Hibernators: When Hibernators Rise and Shine! | Alberta Environment and Parks

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