The Eastern Ontario Model Forest (EOMF) has initiated an atlas project for the reptiles and amphibians of eastern Ontario. Throughout 2009 and 2010, we are asking landowners, citizens, and visitors to submit simple records of sightings (or calls) within the model forest. Atlas reporting forms are available through the EOMF website. The EOMF includes all of the following five counties: Leeds & Grenville; Lanark; Prescott & Russell; Ottawa; and Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry. This identification key was designed to permit participants to use simple visual cues to distinguish between the various species of adult reptiles and amphibians found in eastern Ontario. Keys typically rely on the user to make a series of basic yes/no decisions. Each decision leads to either a conclusive species identification or a further decision. Please do not guess at any stage of the ID process. For beginners, this key should be used with a field guide or a set of identifier cards (i.e., a secondary visual reference). Whenever possible, support your final decision by submitting a corroborative photo along with your sighting data. The first decision is to determine whether the creature is a reptile or an amphibian: 1a. Skin is scaly — reptiles [Go to 2] 1b. Skin is not scaly — amphibians [Go to 3]
SPECIES KEYS FOR EASTERN ONTARIO REPTILES
306a. Upper body is cream-coloured with reddish-brown blotches outlined in black; there is usually a Y-shaped blotch behind the head — Milksnake (*Note 2)
108a. The inside of the hind legs is not bright yellow (usually green); spots are rounded — Northern Leopard Frog 108b. The inside of the hind legs is bright yellow or orange (never green); spots are squarish and usually in two rows down the backside — Pickerel Frog
306b. Upper body is brown to black; faint blotching may be present — [Go to 307]
109a. Hind thighs have irregular blotches only — Mink Frog 109b. Hind thighs have irregular blotches and narrow cross-banding — Green Frog
KEY #2 - THE TURTLES (eight species) 201a. Shell is leathery soft and without scutes (i.e., segments) — Spiny Softshell 201b. Shell is hard and has scutes/segments — [Go to 202] 202a. Chin and neck are bright yellow — Blanding's Turtle 202b. Chin and neck are not bright yellow — [Go to 203]
The reptiles include turtles, snakes, and lizards. Lizards are probably the most straightforward of the reptile group — Ontario only has one species.
203a. Shell has large yellow or orange spots and is typically less than 14cm long — Spotted Turtle 203b. Shell has no large yellow or orange spots — [Go to 204]
2a. Reptile has no legs and no shell — snakes [Go to KEY #3] 2b. Reptile has legs and a shell — turtles [Go to KEY #2] 2c. Reptile has legs, but no shell — Five-lined Skink
204a. Side of head has no lines; rear of shell is serrated — Snapping Turtle 204b. Side of head has lines — [Go to 205]
The amphibians include frogs, toads, and salamanders. Salamanders are very secretive, and won’t usually be observed unless you are actively searching for them. Far less secretive are the frogs and toads, which can also make their presence known by sound (i.e., calls).
205a. Reddish markings occur along the edge of the shell — [Go to 206] 205b. No reddish markings occur along the edge of the shell — [Go to 207]
3a. Amphibian has front legs that are smaller than its hind legs; young individuals may have a short (vestigial) tail — frogs/toads [Go to KEY #1] 3b. Amphibian has front and hind legs that are approximately the same size; specimen also has a long tail — salamanders [Go to KEY #4]
KEY #1 - FROGS & TOADS (ten species) 101a. Skin is covered in warty bumps — [Go to 102] 101b. Skin is essentially smooth, and not covered in warty bumps — [Go to 103] 102a. Skin colour is variably brownish; warty bumps are large, especially behind the eyes — American Toad 102b. Skin colour is variably gray or greenish; warty bumps are small — Gray Treefrog 103a. There is a distinct black patch behind and under each eye — Wood Frog 103b. There is no distinct black patch behind and under each eye — [Go to 104] 104a. There is a darker-coloured X-shaped pattern on the back — Spring Peeper 104b. There is no noticeable X-shaped pattern on the back — [Go to 105] 105a. Back has three, sometimes broken, stripes; fingers and toes have adhesive disks (i.e., suction cups) — Western Chorus Frog 105b. Back is not striped; fingers and toes lack adhesive disks — [Go to 106] 106a. Backside does not have a pair of vein-like folds; no strong patterning or blotching — American Bullfrog 106b. Backside has a pair of vein-like folds and patterning or blotching — [Go to 107]
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107a. Upper body has many distinct, large, hard-edged spots — [Go to 108] 107b. Upper body has soft-edged spots or blotches — [Go to 109]
Assistance for this project was provided by the Ministry of Natural Resources.
206a. There is no reddish or orange spot behind the eye — Midland Painted Turtle 206b. There is a reddish or orange spot behind the eye — Red-eared Slider 207a. Side of head has two light lines and no yellow spot behind the eye — Eastern Musk Turtle 207b. Side of head has many lines and a yellow spot behind the eye — Northern Map Turtle
KEY #3 - THE SNAKES (nine species) 301a. Upper body is emerald green (or blue if roadkill) — Smooth Greensnake 301b. Upper body is black, with a ring around the neck; belly is yellow — Ring-necked Snake 301c. Upper body is striped or blotchy, not uniform; patterning may be hard to see — [Go to 302] 302a. Upper body is strongly or subtly striped, not blotchy — [Go to 303] 302b. Upper body is strongly or subtly blotchy, not striped — [Go to 306] 303a. Upper body is brownish or grayish with light striping — [Go to 304] 303b. Upper body has alternating yellow and black stripes — [Go to 305] 304a. A single stripe is bordered by small dark flecks; belly is light — DeKay's Brownsnake 304b. A double stripe is not bordered by small dark spots; belly is bright orange or reddish — Red-bellied Snake (*Note 1) 305a. There is a white spot in front of the eye — Northern Ribbonsnake 305b. There is no white spot in front of the eye — Eastern Gartersnake (*Note 3)
The Government of Canada Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk
307a. Upper body is dark gray to brown; scales have ridges (i.e., keeled) giving a rough appearance; near water — Northern Watersnake (*Note 3, Note 4) 307b. Upper body is black; faint blotching may be apparent; scales are smooth and shiny (i.e., not keeled) — Gray Ratsnake (*Note 2, Note 3)
KEY #4 - SALAMANDERS (seven species) 401a. Large (more than 8 cm) salamander; tufted red gills occur behind the head — Mudpuppy (*Note 5) 401b. Smaller salamander; no tufted red gills behind the head — [Go to 402] 402a. Spots are cream-coloured, yellow, or orange on a dark body — Spotted Salamander 402b. Spots are pale blue on a dark body — Blue-spotted Salamander 402c. Spots are reddish with a dark border — [Go to 403] 402d. No spots, or spots occur as dark peppery speckles — [Go to 404] 403a. Body is bright red or orange — Eastern Newt (immature terrestrial "red eft" stage) 403b. Body is olive or brownish — Eastern Newt (mature aquatic stage) 404a. Belly is white with black spots; hind feet have four toes — Fourtoed Salamander 404b. Belly is not white; hind feet have five toes — [Go to 405] 405a. No stripe down the back, or a single reddish or orange stripe down the back — Eastern Red-backed Salamander 405b. Double stripes down the back are light and yellowish — Northern Two-lined Salamander *Note 1: Red-bellied snakes can also have a gray phase (i.e., upper body is grayish). *Note 2: Very small ratsnakes resemble milksnakes (i.e., blotching is very pronounced, not faint), but do not have the milksnake's Y-shaped marking behind the head. *Note 3: Melanistic gartersnakes have black bodies, no blotching, and keeled scales. *Note 4: At first glance, a wet watersnake can look as black as a dry ratsnake. *Note 5: Mudpuppies, unlike other salamanders, are permanently aquatic and never occur on dry land.
This is #3 in a series of five brochures: #1 - Atlas of Eastern Ontario Reptiles & Amphibians #2 - Checklist of Eastern Ontario Reptiles & Amphibians #3 - Species Keys for Eastern Ontario Reptiles & Amphibians #4 - Photo Contest on Eastern Ontario Reptiles & Amphibians #5 - Stewardship of Eastern Ontario Reptiles & Amphibians
For more information, please contact: Eastern Ontario Model Forest P.O. Bag 2111, 10 Campus Dr, Kemptville, ON, K0G 1J0 Tel: (613) 258-8241, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit us on the internet at www.eomf.on.ca.