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 Year end report - Ontario

Yep. Its that time of year again. For the most part, the season is done up here in Canada, say for the exception of some amphibians. I finished my last midterm this morning, and with a slight lull in my schedule, I am going to take the time to put out my end of the year report.

I took two out of province trips - Florida keys in January, and Snake Road in October. In Florida I had little opportunity to herp, and i came away with only 19 reptile species; none spectacular, so I won’t put up my Florida pics. Snake road was excellent and we had a great time, but I put those pictures up only a week or two ago, and I am sure you guys are all sick of Snake Road pics by now.

Anyways, that leaves my herping I did in Ontario.

Spring was later than anticipated this year, and we didn’t get any warm rains until the 4th of April or so. However, before long, the salamander season was in full swing.

Spotted Salamander - Ambystoma maculatum

These guys are declining throughout much of Ontario rapidly. However, the populations in my area are quite stable...for now...

Western Chorus Frog - Pseudacris triseriata

I was very happy to locate a population of Jefferson Salamanders. They have been found at this spot in the past though. For those who don’t know, Jefferson Salamanders are a Threatened Species in Canada and not too many populations are around.

Jefferson Salamander - Ambystoma jeffersonianum

The Blue-spotted Salamander is probably the most abundant Ambystoma in the province. This one doesn’t appear to be pure.

Blue-spotted Salamander - Ambystoma laterale

A few days later, I went back to my salamander spot to scout for Four-toed Salamanders. I didn’t find any, so I checked out some promising looking vernals later.

A few Spotted Salamanders were around the edge, and a few of these were basking on the hillside:

Northern Brown Snake - Storeria dekayi dekayi

Early spring also means Spotted Turtles.

Spotted Turtle - Clemmys guttata:

One of my goals for the season was to locate breeding Four-toed Salamanders. I had found individuals scattered around the forest occasionally in past Octobers so I was hoping to check out some potential breeding habitat.

Four-toed Salamander - Hemidactylium scutatum

In total, I located about a dozen nests, in exploring just a fraction of the habitat. Fortunately most of the nests were found right off of a boardwalk or on the shore, so I didn’t disturb the pond too much.

Four-toed Salamander - Hemidactylium scutatum

I made a few longer trips in April and consequently saw some cool species. One such trip was made with Dav Nemethy-Fekete and Dan Riley to one of our favorite spots. It was a great day, as we found both Smooth Green and Eastern Milk Snakes.

Smooth Green Snake - Liochlorophis vernalis

These guys serenaded us all day long with their trills.

American Toad - Bufo americaus

It was now getting to be the time of year when the Treefrogs headed down to the ponds. One night, I showed my friend Wayne some of the populations in my area. It is such a cool experience to be out in a pond, middle of a balmy night, moon shining, and Tree Frogs calling from everywhere.

Gray Tree Frog - Hyla versicolor

Wayne returned the favor a few weeks later by showing Dan, Dav, and I a population of Butler’s Garter Snakes. Unfortunately, they are restricted to only a few sites in Southern Ontario, and many of their populations are getting wiped out by development. Money talks.

Some prime habitat:

Butler’s Garter Snake - Thamnophis butleri

Another goal of mine for the year was to spend as much time as possible at a population of Eastern Massasaugas that Dan had found the previous year. I had never seen one, so I was thrilled to find the first of the year:

Eastern Massasauga - Sistrurus catenatus catenatus

One day while on the way to the Massasauga site, we found a turtle crossing the road. At first, we were not sure was species it was, but as we approached in the car, we realized it was a big male Blanding’s.

Blanding’s Turtle - Emydoidea blandingi

Here is some typical habitat in central Ontario, that is home to a number of species, including Smooth Green Snake, Milk Snake, and of course, Eastern Massasauga. What you can’t see from this picture is the hoards of black flies and deer flies that will suck you dry.

Pickerel Frog - Rana palustris

As spring turned into summer, I had been emailing back and forth with Jon W. (user name Jawn) from the forums as he had been having some excellent finds in a small area of Ontario. I had only herped with him once, showing him the tail end of the salamander breeding in my area, and I was anxious to do some herping on his stomping grounds. He more than returned the favor by showing me his prime spots.

On the first trip, while we struck out on the Queen Snakes and Fox Snakes, we still found some cool stuff, including this melanistic Eastern Garter Snake.

Eastern Garter Snake - Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis

We ended up finding some Redbelly Snakes and a Smooth Green Snake as well.

10 Days later, I met up with him again, and he showed me some more of his sites. After getting mostly skunked, we tried a few abondoned farms, and were definitely rewarded.

Eastern Hognose Snake - Heterodon platyrhinos

Hmm, this looks snakey:


A little while later, we met up for a 3rd time. And once again, we were not disappointed. I was really happy to find a beautiful Fox Snake at the same place where Jon found the hoggie previously. This is one of my favorite shots:

Eastern Fox Snake - Elaphe gloydi

Of course, no trip to Jon’s area is complete without a healthy dose of Redbelly Snakes.

Northern Redbelly Snake - Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata

That day we did considerably well; We found a bunch of Smooth Green Snake eggs...

Smooth Green Snake - Liochlorophis vernalis

....and finished the day with a pretty Milk Snake just as a thunderstorm began. (Pretty is this area the Milk Snakes are generally ugly)

I was fortunate this summer to have a job where I got weekends off, even though I had to work 60 hours a week. This helped considerably with herping, as I got out just about every weekend.

One memorable trip was when Wayne and I headed East to look for Black Rat Snakes. Despite help from other herpers, campers, and naturalists, we couldn’t find one of those damn snakes to save our lives. Although these Turkey Vultures in a cave was a cool find...

Northern Leopard Frog - Rana pipiens

Some nice marsh habitat...

Green Frog - Rana clamitans melanota

Northern Spring Peeper - Pseudacris crucifer crucifer

For the past 5 or 6 years, I had made a yearly trip to Pelee Island; the only place in Ontario where the Blue Racer, Smallmouth Salamander, and Lake Erie Water Snake are found. Due to the time of year, we struck out on the Racer. However, we did find hundreds of snakes, including 3 Fox Snakes and many LEWS.

Eastern Fox Snake - Elaphe gloydi

Lake Erie Water Snake - Nerodia sipedon insularium

Smallmouth Salamander - Ambystoma texanum

Back to the Massasauga spot. We were hoping to get up there in early August when all the gravid females would give birth. Due to a number of things, Wayne, Dan, and I couldn’t make it until the 23rd. However, we had an outstanding day, finding two birthing areas containing at least 8 neonates.

Eastern Massasauga - Sistrurus catenatus

Five-lined Skinks are very common in this area.

Five-lined Skink - Eumeces fasciatus

Meanwhile, I spent a few weekends back home locating species near my house. I added 3 new species to my "within 10 minutes of home" list, bringing the total to 25. Ringneck Snake was one of them. While common in central Ontario, they are extremely localized in southern ON. Despite searching the area probably 200 times in 3 years, this was my first for the spot.

Ringneck Snake - Diadophis punctatus

Strangely, 4 days later, I added Eastern Milk Snake to that list. Again, I had herped that area quite often, and this was my first milk.

Eastern Milk Snake - Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum

Of course, the Thamnophis are always found in big numbers here.

Northern Ribbon Snake - Thamnophis sauritus septentrionalis

As September came around, we began getting the remnants of the hurricanes. Both nights I went out were extremely productive as I located all 9 Anurans in my area.

Northern Leopard Frog - Rana pipiens

Wood Frog - Rana sylvatica

Northern Spring Peeper - Pseudacris crucifer crucifer

Western Chorus Frog - Pseudacris triseriata

Gray Tree Frog - Hyla versicolor

American Toad - Bufo americanus americanus

Dav and I made it down to Jon’s area one day in September. Unfortunately for us, Jon was in Panama finding Panamanian Golden Frogs instead. The weather didn’t cooperate with us, but we still had 2 excellent finds: Baby Eastern Hognose Snakes.

Eastern Hognose Snake - Heterodon platyrhinos

Dav photographing the little guy:

Fall in Ontario means more salamanders. Here is a pretty Blue-spotted x Jefferson Salamander my cousin found:

Ambystoma sp.

And a recent metamorph Spotted Salamander.

Spotted Salamander - Ambystoma maculatum

I had Wayne, Dav, and Dan over for one last time in late September. We had a great time checking out my areas and finding some cool herps as well.

Red-bellied Snake - Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata

Northern Water Snake - Nerodia sipedon sipedon

Hangin’ on for dear life:

Northern Ribbon Snake - Thamnophis sauritus septentrionalis

Four-toed Salamander - Hemidactylium scutatum

Eastern Garter Snake - Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis

Red-spotted Newt - Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens

And that does it for the year. I can’t wait to do it all over again next year! In the works are a herping trip to Florida in February, a trip to S. Carolina/Georgia/North Florida end of April, Sky Islands (AZ) in August, and Snake Road in October. Hopefully I can meet up with a few from these forums on some of these trips.

Good to meet a bunch of forum members this year: Dav, Dan Riley, Mike Pingleton, cerastes, EvanTN, Russ Jones, Tom Preney, ont_herper, peterknuteberg, Scott Albert, moofallon, jbhewlett, Jawn, coreyhkh, Patrick M., Campclemmys, Warren, and whoever else I forgot.

As some of you may know, I keep extensive field notes for each year. Here is my totals for the year. If I found the same animal twice, I only counted it once (i.e. some of the Massasaugas and others). Calling frogs were counted, and a chorus was a maximum of 25. I didn’t count choruses from the same pond twice.


288 Eastern Garter Snake - [i]Thamnophis s. sirtalis[/i]
93 Northern Brown Snake - [i]Storeria d. dekayi[/i]
52 Northern Ribbon Snake - [i]Thamnophis sauritus septentrionalis[/i]
51 Lake Erie Water Snake - [i]Nerodia sipedon insularium[/i]
32 Northern Redbelly Snake - [i]Storeria o. occipitomaculata[/i]
27 Northern Ringneck Snake - [i]Diadophis punctatus edwardsii[/i]
23 Eastern Massasauga - [i]Sistrurus c. catenatus[/i]
21 Northern Water Snake - [i]Nerodia s. sipedon[/i]
11 Eastern Milk Snake - [i]Lampropeltis t. triangulum[/i]
5 Butler’s Garter Snake - [i]Thamnophis butleri[/i]
4 Eastern Fox Snake - [i]Elaphe gloydi[/i]
3 Eastern Hognose Snake - [i]Heterodon platyrhinos[/i]
2 Smooth Green Snake - [i]Liochlorophis vernalis[/i]

65 Five-lined Skink - [i]Eumeces fasciatus[/i]

225 Midland Painted Turtle - [i]Chrysemys picta marginata[/i]
23 Common Snapping Turtle - [i]Chelydra s. serpentina[/i]
20 Spotted Turtle - [i]Clemmys gutatta[/i]
12 Blanding’s Turtle - [i]Emydoidea blandingi[/i]
5 Common Map Turtle - [i]Graptemys geographica[/i]
2 Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle -[i] Apalone s. spinifera[/i]


450 Green Frog - [i]Rana clamitans melanota[/i]
369 Northern Leopard Frog - [i]Rana pipiens[/i]
367 Spring Peeper - [i]Pseudacris c. crucifer[/i]
209 American Toad - [i]Bufo a. americanus[/i]
199 Gray Tree Frog - [i]Hyla versicolor[/i]
190 Western Chorus Frog - [i]Pseudacris triseriata[/i]
120 Wood Frog - [i]Rana sylvatica[/i]
33 Bull Frog - [i]Rana catesbeiana[/i]
11 Mink Frog - [i]Rana septentrionalis[/i]
10 Pickerel Frog - [i]Rana pipiens[/i]

265 (73 lead phase) Eastern Redback Salamander - [i]Plethodon cinereus[/i]
135 Spotted Salamander - [i]Ambystoma maculatum[/i]
63 Blue-spotted Salamander - [i]Ambystoma laterale[/i] (including supposed hybrids)
23 Four-toed Salamander - [i]Hemidactylium scutatum[/i]
19 Red-spotted Newt - [i]Notophthalmus v. viridescens[/i]
10 Jefferson Salamander - [i]Ambystoma jeffersonianum[/i]
6 Smallmouth Salamander - [i]Ambystoma texanum[/i] (including supposed hybrids)

Josh Vandermeulen

11/05/08  10:25pm


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  Message To: Joshsnakeman   In reference to Message Id: 1893880

 Year end report - Ontario

Whoops, my bad. I forgot to post a few pictures of an ugly, inbred mutant ball python morph or something. That must explain the lack of interest in a post like this.

It is a shame how out of touch most herpetoculturists are with nature. Really shows how the hobby is going downhill...


11/14/08  10:51pm


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  Message To: Joshsnakeman   In reference to Message Id: 1898693

 Year end report - Ontario

Really nice stuff

Joshsnakeman, seems like nobody comes around here anymore. I wish it was hopping like the old days.
I will give my year end report some time inthe morning..

11/15/08  05:35pm


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  Message To: JEFF QUARLES   In reference to Message Id: 1899007

 Year end report - Ontario

Great pics! I love the baby hognose! And I agree that people are forgetting about the whole nature thing. They’re forgetting where the snakes came from originally, the wild. My old post name was Jackpine, and I asked you a while ago (in the summer) about where to look for Dekay’s snakes before I went on vacation. I found soooo many of them!! One was eating a worm when I found it, then promptly spit it out. Thanks for the tips and keep the awesome pics coming!


11/15/08  07:38pm


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  Message To: Jynxer50   In reference to Message Id: 1899076

 Year end report - Ontario

Looking forward to it, Jeff. Good to see you on the main Fieldherping site as well.

Jake - glad you found some brown snakes. they are a cool little species. I would rather see one of those than own a whole pile of mutant ball pythons. (and they brown snakes are pretty common up here too).


11/20/08  11:36pm


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  Message To: Joshsnakeman   In reference to Message Id: 1902426

 Year end report - Ontario

I have to agree with you there. They are a neat species. I personally have never been one for ball pythons at all. Not much herping where I live. The only lizard is the Horned Lizard, which are very hard to find. The only snakes are garters, racers, bulls, and rattlers. Well, there’s supposed to be hognosed, but I’ve never found one. And very few amphibians. It’s actually very sad. Not all the place for a budding herper to live...


11/21/08  10:57pm


Jake and Rex
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  Message To: Jynxer50   In reference to Message Id: 1902955

 Year end report - Ontario

where do ya live jake?


03/31/09  12:33pm


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  Message To: Jake and Rex   In reference to Message Id: 1977872

 Year end report - Ontario

Hes up in Canada if I remember correctly...Its been a few years

03/31/09  07:16pm


Fairy Frog Mother
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  Message To: Kyguylal   In reference to Message Id: 1978082

 Year end report - Ontario

* sighs* I live in a city without a car. There are some places to go hiking though. Ive taken pre-schoolers out on "nature walks" when I taught preschool, through weedy over grown alleys and turned over logs to show them many a salamander and bug. Sadly, no snakes or frogs around here.

When I was little we had a creek that ran behind our house and Id spend hours on my belly watching tadpoles and rescuing tiny ringneck snake babies from our cat. ( He would bring them to me whole and pretty much unhurt, but the poor things were totally freaked out.)

I would love to go out to see if I could find any San Francisco Garter Snakes in what very few fields are left on the peninsula. Sadly, the airport expanded and filled in their most successful breeding sites. Grr! Pacific tree frogs are majorly on the decline too. Almost all of the creeks were filled in or cemented for "flood control back in the 70s.

Thankfully, there are some places along the San Andreas Fault line where there are vernal sag ponds where you can still hear chorus’s so loud at sunset and sunrise that you cant hear someone talk next to you. And Portola Valley has some very nice open space areas. Ill have to check them out and report back soon as I sucker another herp loving friend to go with me.

03/31/09  08:04pm

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