7 COMMON Amphibians in Alberta (ID Guide)

Are you wondering what amphibians you can find in Alberta?

common amphibians in alberta

 

This is a great question! Although amphibians are widespread, they can be challenging to locate. Most amphibians, including frogs, toads, and salamanders, are secretive and shy. But in my opinion, looking for amphibians is a really fun experience!

 

Below you will find a list of the most COMMON and interesting amphibians that live in Alberta. In addition, you will find detailed pictures, along with range maps for each species to help with your identification!

 

 

7 Types of Amphibians That Live in Alberta:

 


#1. Northern Leopard Frog

  • Lithobates pipiens

species of amphibians in alberta

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 5-11.5 cm long.
  • Smooth skin is green, brown, or yellow-green with large dark spots.
  • Lighter-colored raised ridges extend down the length of the back.

 

You can spot these amphibians in Alberta near slow-moving bodies of water with lots of vegetation. Northern Leopard Frogs are easy to see in or near ponds, lakes, streams, and marshes. I love how bright green most individuals appear!

Northern Leopard Frog Range Map

northern leopard frog range map

Due to their fairly large size, these amphibians eat various foods, including worms, crickets, flies, small frogs, snakes, and birds. In one study, a bat was even observed being eaten!

 

During the spring breeding season, the males will float in shallow pools emitting a low call thought to sound like snoring. However, the Northern Leopard Frog may also make a high, loud, screaming call if captured or startled.

 

Northern Leopard Frog populations are declining in many areas, and the cause is not exactly known. It’s thought to be a combination of habitat loss, drought, introduced fish, environmental contaminants, and disease.

 


#2. Boreal Chorus Frog

  • Pseudacris maculata

boreal chorus frog - types of amphibians in alberta

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 2.5-4 cm long.
  • Coloration is brown, olive green, or tan, with three dark stripes down the back that are sometimes broken into blotches.
  • Prominent black stripe on each side from nostril, through the eye, and down the sides to the groin.
  • Looks very similar to the Western Chorus Frog. Boreal Chorus Frogs are distinguished by having shorter legs.

 

While the Boreal Chorus Frog is a common amphibian in Alberta, they are rarely seen. They’re small and secretive, inhabiting moist meadows and forests near wetlands.

Boreal Chorus Frog Range Map

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior/USGSchorus frog range map - boreal, western, upland

These amphibians breed in shallow temporary ponds and pools such as flooded fields and roadside ditches. They require waters free of fish; otherwise, predators would eat most of their eggs and tadpoles!

 

Males produce a loud chorus of calls at breeding sites, which are easy to identify.

 

The sound has been compared to someone running a finger over the teeth of a comb (“reeeek“). You’re most likely to hear the calls in the late afternoon or evening.

 


#3. Pacific Treefrog

  • Pseudacris regilla

pacific tree frog - species of amphibians in alberta

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults can reach 5 cm long, with the males typically being smaller.
  • Most are green or brown with pale white undersides, but some are reddish, gray, cream, or black.
  • Dark mask across the eyes to the shoulders and uniformly bumpy skin.

 

These amphibians can be found in a wide range of elevations in southwestern Alberta, ranging from sea level to 10,000 feet (3,050 m)!

 

Pacific Treefrog Range Map

pacific tree frog range map

Look for Pacific Treefrogs in woodlands and meadows. Interestingly, these amphibians spend most of their time on the ground despite being a treefrog. They even hide from predators in underground burrows!

 

Also called the Pacific Chorus Frog, this species can be heard during the spring. Their mating call is a two-part call that sounds like “kreck-ek” or “rib-bit.

 


#4. Wood Frog

  • Lithobates sylvaticus

wood frog - kinds of amphibians in alberta

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adult body lengths range from 3.5-8 cm.
  • Coloration is various shades of brown, gray, red, or green, with females tending to be more brightly colored.
  • Distinct black marking across the eyes, which resembles a mask.

 

As the name suggests, Wood Frogs are found in moist woodland habitats, including forested swamps, ravines, and bogs. They travel widely and visit seasonal pools to breed.

Wood Frog Range Map

wood frog range map

This incredible little amphibian has a wide range across North America. They have adapted to cold climates by being able to freeze over the winter. Their breathing and heartbeat stop and their bodies produce a type of antifreeze that prevents their cells from bursting. In the spring, they thaw and begin feeding again.

 

Wood Frogs are among the first amphibians in Alberta to emerge after the snow melts. Listen for a call that sounds a bit like a clucking chicken near vernal pools and other small bodies of water!

 


#5. Western Toad

  • Anaxyrus boreas

types of amphibians in alberta

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adult length is 5-13 cm.
  • Coloring can range from yellowish, tan, gray, or green with a pale stripe along the back. The Western Toad also has dark blotches with rust-colored edges and warts.
  • Males have smoother, less blotchy skin than females.

 

As its name suggests, the Western Toad lives in the western part of the continent. It has a wide range of habitats, including desert streams and springs, forests, lakes and rivers, and backyard gardens with pools nearby.

Western Toad Range Map:

 

Unlike most other toads, Western Toads don’t often hop!

 

Instead, they walk, picking up 1 or 2 legs at a time. You can see this unique movement below!

 


#6. Great Plains Toad

  • Anaxyrus cognatus

species of amphibians in alberta

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adult length is 5-11.5 cm.
  • Coloring is pale white to tan or olive with large, dark-colored pairs of blotches down the back. Lighter tan or white belly.
  • A crest on the head forms a “V” shape from the snout, moving outward on the head toward the back.

 

Great Plains Toads are found in temporary shallow pools, quiet streams, marshes, or irrigation ditches. They are most common in grasslands and can be found in desert brush and woodland areas.

Great Plains Toad Range Map:

 

Only a few weeks out of the year are suitable for the Great Plains Toad to feed and reproduce. Amazingly, they spend the rest of the year mostly dormant in underground burrows made by other animals.

 

Symmetrical dark splotches running down its back make this amphibian one of the easier toads to see, but you will probably hear one nearby long before you can spot it. Its call can last more than 50 seconds and is similar to a jackhammer!

 

When large groups of Great Plains Toads call, the sound can be near-deafening!

 


#7. Western Tiger Salamander

  • Ambystoma mavortium

kinds of amphibians in alberta

Identifying Characteristics

  • Adults range from 7.5-16.5 cm in length.
  • Their coloring is greenish-yellow with black markings, ranging from large spots and stripes to small irregular shapes on the head, back, and tail.
  • This species has a thick body and neck and a short snout.

 

Western Tiger Salamanders are secretive and spend much of their time underground. You’re most likely to see these amphibians moving about and foraging on rainy nights. Their favorite hiding spots are burrows, which they can make themselves or borrow from other animals.

Interestingly, Western Tiger Salamanders have four distinct morphs as adults. Scientists classify them by whether they are aquatic or terrestrial and what they eat. For example, a typical Western Tiger Salamander eats insects and frogs, breathes above water, and spends time on land.

 

However, there is a terrestrial morph that cannibalizes other Western Tiger Salamanders! In addition, there are cannibalistic and non-cannibalistic AQUATIC morphs that have gills and breathe underwater.

The aquatic individuals are called paedomorphs, and while they are mature and able to reproduce normally, they retain a lot of the features of larval Western Tiger Salamanders. The most obvious feature is their frilly, long gills!

 


What types of amphibians in Alberta have you seen?

 

Let us know in the comments!

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