Amphibians and reptiles are very beneficial to the ecosystem. Cape Breton Highlands National Park is home to a relatively small number of amphibians and reptiles, mainly because of cold temperatures, limited habitat available for these types of animal, and natural barriers preventing them from moving in to Cape Breton.

Frogs, toads, newts and salamanders

Amphibians fulfill the role of both predator and prey. In some ecosystems, if you were to take out all the birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and amphibians and weigh them by group, the amphibians would weigh more than any other group of vertebrate animals. That's a lot of amphibians!

The most common woodland amphibians in Cape Breton Highlands National Park include the red-backed salamander, yellow-spotted salamander, wood frog, spring peeper and American toad. The red-spotted newt, northern leopard frog, green frog, mink frog and pickerel frog live in small ponds and lakes within the park.

Worldwide, scientists have found that the numbers of amphibians are steadily decreasing. These animals may be especially vulnerable to pollution since they have very thin skins which absorb toxins readily. Some other reasons for the decline may include habitat destruction and disease.

Snakes and turtles

All four species of snake found within the park are small and not venomous. The Maritime garter snake is by far the most common snake seen within the park but the northern redbelly snake, northern ringneck snake and eastern smooth green snake can also be found here.

Far from being harmful, many of the snakes of Nova Scotia are quite helpful in keeping down the populations of insects and rodents. Garter snakes eat amphibians, small fish, worms and mice. Green snakes generally snack on moth larvae like the tent caterpillar, and spiders. The northern ringneck snake loves a good red-backed salamander, while the redbelly snake is a gardener's best friend - their favourite food is slugs.

The endangered leatherback turtle, a sea turtle, sometimes swims off the coast of the park in search of jellyfish, which it eats.

Checklist of amphibians in Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Family (Common name)
Species Scientific name Status in the park
Ambystomatidae (Mole salamanders)
Blue-spotted salamander Ambystoma laterale
Uncommon
Yellow-spotted salamander Ambystoma maculatum Common
Salamandridae (Newts)
Red-spotted newt Notopthalmus viridescens viridescens Common
Plethodontidae (Lungless salamanders)
Eastern redback salamander Plethodon cinereus
Common
Four-toed salamander Hemidactylium scutatum Rare
Bufonidae (Toads)
Eastern American toad Anaxyrus americanus americanus Abundant
Hylidae (Tree frogs)
Northern spring peeper Hyla crucifer crucifer Common
Ranidae (True frogs)
Green frog Lithobates clamitans melanota
Abundant
Mink frog Lithobates septentrionalis Rare
Wood frog Lithobates sylvatica Common
Northern leopard frog Lithobates pipiens Common
Pickerel frog Lithobates palustris Uncommon

Checklist of reptiles in Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Family (Common name)
Species Scientific name Status in the park
Colubridae (Colubrid snakes)
Northern redbelly snake Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata Probably common in certain areas
Maritime garter snake Thamnophis sirtalis pallidula Abundant
Northern ringneck snake Diadophis punctatus edwardsii Probably common in certain areas
Eastern smooth green snake Liochlorophis vernalis vernalis Probably common in certain areas