Amphibians and reptiles

Banff National Park

There are 4 amphibians and 1 reptile found in the national park. The Spotted Frog is listed as sensitive under Alberta’s Species at Risk Act, but it can be found throughout Banff National Park. Pollution, habitat disturbance, and run-off containing road salts may affect these frogs. The Long-toed Salamander is one of only two salamander species in Alberta!


Long-toed Salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum)

Boreal Toad (Bufo boreas boreas)

Columbia Spotted Frog (Rana luteiventris)

Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)

Lizard Lake now called Pilot Pond

Many times in the past humans have interfered with natural systems without understanding or considering the possible consequences. One example is the case of Pilot Pond, a small kettle pond located off the Bow Valley Parkway. It used to be known by locals as Lizard Lake because of the large number of Long-toed Salamanders that lived there.

The population of salamanders was nearly eliminated by stocking Rainbow and Brook Trout into Pilot Pond between 1926 and 1974 as trout eat salamander larvae. The population in Pilot Pond is beginning to recover since the cessation of stocking.


Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans)

Small species provide big clues about the health of Banff National Park’s freshwater ecosystems.

Imagine having skin so thin you could breathe through it. This special trait allows amphibians to absorb oxygen underwater as tadpoles and on land as adults. Their skin can absorb oxygen, but also pollutants from their environment, making amphibians very sensitive to changes in their habitat. All these elements make amphibians good indicators of ecosystem health. That’s because increases or decreases in amphibian populations may reveal bigger problems with the health of freshwater ecosystems in Banff National Park.

  Research and monitoring

Parks Canada researchers are now on the hunt for clues from these extraordinary species. Amphibians can be hard to find. As a result, researchers not only look for them on the ground, they listen for them too! Parks Canada researchers hike to 60 sites in the park, twice a year in mid-April and the end of May. The sites provide ideal breeding conditions for amphibians – and include features like ponds, pools and wetland meadows. When researchers arrive at a site there’s a lot they look and listen for to collect important information about the environment the amphibians live in:

  They listen for the croaks and chirps of frogs and toads.
  They look for adults, eggs, tadpoles and juvenile.
  They test the water’s pH (acidity), conductivity and climate data.

All of these data provide important information about any changes in amphibian activity and the condition of the habitat they live in.

Amphibians quick facts
  • Banff National Park is home to four amphibian species: Long-toed salamander, Western toad, Columbia spotted frog and Wood frog.
  • There are more than 7,500 different kinds of amphibians worldwide - and are among the most at risk group of species in the world.
  • The word amphibian comes from the Greek word amphibios, meaning "a being with a double life."
  • Not all amphibians chirp or croak! Some like the long-toed salamander, are silent.
  • Every year that a frog goes into hibernation, a new layer of bone forms.

What can you do to help amphibians in Banff National Park?

  • Give all wildlife space – including amphibians.
  • Because of their sensitive skin, it’s best not to handle amphibians. Lotion, soap, and insect repellent on your skin may cause them irritation.

Related links

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