Reptiles and amphibians
Waterton Lakes National Park’s amphibians and reptiles are important members of their ecosystems even though often elusive and rarely seen. The park’s low-elevation montane and foothills parkland ecoregions host the greatest diversity and density of reptiles and amphibians.
Amphibians and reptiles are studied together as a discipline known as herpetology. Amphibians and reptiles have differences such as their skin and eggs, but they share some behavioural and physical characteristics. Both amphibians and reptiles are cold-blooded (ectothermic) animals, relying on the environment to control their body temperature.
Since 2015, Waterton Lakes National Park has collaborated with partners to restore the northern leopard frog to the park. Each spring, Parks Canada’s ecological monitoring team conducts surveys of amphibian species presence in the park’s wetlands, watching for any long-term changes. Amphibian species presence has remained stable at the waterbodies monitored over the past 20 years.
Amphibians are important indicators of the health of their environments. The presence, abundance, or absence of amphibians helps scientists to understand an ecosystem’s health. Amphibians are also an important predator and prey species, as they both eat and are a food source for other species in the ecosystem.
Alberta is home to nine species of reptiles. Two snake species, the red-sided and wandering garter snakes, live in Waterton Lakes National Park.
Reptiles play key roles in the food chain as both predators and prey. They eat small mammals, small fish, amphibians and insects. Reptiles are also prey for large birds, foxes and coyotes. Reptiles face many threats, including roadway mortality. Follow the speed limit and drive with care while looking out for wildlife while in the park. Avoid harming snakes you may see on roads like the Red Rock Parkway from spring through fall. Snakes are attracted to the warm asphalt as a way to regulate their body temperature.