Frequently Asked Questions
First and foremost, toads are frogs but not all frogs are toads. This is because frogs and toads belong to the order Anura which people often refer to as frogs. Toads refer to one family of frogs, Bufonidae, that contains over 300 species. These generalized words made sense in Great Britain where there are very few species of frog and toad, however that is not the case in B.C. where there are diverse families of Anurans. Frogs and toads are amphibians and there are several ways to tell them apart. Generally, toads have dry warty skin, while frogs have smooth or slimy skin. Toads have parotid (poison) glands behind their eyes while frogs have bulging eyes. Frogs have long webbed hind feet that help them leap and swim, while toads have short hind legs that aid them in walking. Toads typically spend more time on land further away from water sources, while frogs prefer to stay in water or relatively close to it. Frogs typically lay eggs in clusters, while most toads lay eggs in long chains.
For more information, visit:
Credit: Eugene Beckes
Credit: Patrick Randall
Northern Leopard Frog
It is illegal to collect tadpoles and eggs from the environment without a permit according to the Wildlife Act. Collecting tadpoles and eggs can lead to disease transfer as well as the spread of invasive species such as bullfrogs. It is extremely hard to provide proper conditions for eggs and tadpoles and they often do not survive in “home” raising. This can lead to mass deaths and species decline, which is problematic for species at risk. It is best to leave tadpoles and eggs where you found them. If you have a suitable pond in your backyard, you may be lucky enough to have a native species lay eggs in it. If you are an educator, consider using alternative methods for teaching amphibian life cycles such as YouTube videos or by visiting a local pond. Additionally, you may be able to contact and work with local biologists who can assist in wildlife education through presentations or field visits.
Credit: Taylor Goforth
Oregon Spotted Frog
Credit: Ian Adams
Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog
Credit: David Bradford
To help keep both you and amphibians safe it is best to not handle them. Some amphibian species have toxic skin secretions that can cause allergic reactions to your skin. Amphibians also have permeable skin, which means they easily absorb any toxins or chemical we may have on our hands such as our natural skin oils, sunscreen, and bug spray. If you are helping an amphibian off a road to safety wear disposable gloves. Do not reuse gloves as this can cause disease transfer.
Yes, toads and some amphibians are poisonous and can be harmful to animals and can cause an allergic reaction in humans. Toads produce poison in parotid glands behind their eyes that help them defend themselves against predators. This poison is called bufotoxin. Touching a toad will not give you warts, this is a common misconception. However, touching toads can cause skin irritations, so it is best to just observe them from afar.
Other amphibians such as the Rough-skinned Newt are highly toxic. It is estimated that one newt contains enough poison to kill 25,000 mice. The toxin that Rough-skinned Newts create is a tetrodotoxin, similar to that created by pufferfish, and the level of toxicity varies throughout its range. Gartersnakes are one of the main predators of Rough-skinned Newts, and have evolved a resistance to the toxin. Due to its toxicity, it is best to not hold or touch Rough-skinned Newts.
For more information, visit:
Credit: US Forest Service
Credit: Joe Crowley
American Bullfrogs are the largest frogs in Canada with adults as big as 20 cm in body length. Bullfrogs naturally occur in eastern North America and are considered invasive in British Columbia (B.C.). Bullfrogs were introduced to B.C. in the 1900’s for frog leg farming purposes. Since this time, Bullfrogs have rapidly spread throughout the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island as well as into the western United States.
Bullfrogs in B.C. have a huge impact on local ecosystems. Unfortunately, Bullfrogs will eat anything that can fit in their large mouths, including other frog species, salamanders, turtles, snakes, lizards and even fish, birds and small mammals. Bullfrog tadpoles also compete with native frog tadpoles for resources and suitable habitat. In particular Pacific Treefrogs and Red-Legged Frogs are negatively impacted by the presence of Bullfrogs. Bullfrogs are also a vector for Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Chytrid Disease-add link to disease page) which is a highly contagious fungus that is detrimental to amphibians.
To help reduce the impact of Bullfrogs on native species, DO NOT transport adult, tadpoles, and eggs to your backyard pond or to a new location. This increases the spread of this invasive species and potentially the spread of disease to a new area.
For more information, visit:
Credit: Matt Morrison
Credit: David Bradford
You will know you have encountered a Bullfrog when you hear the male’s deep call “bwaa, bwaa” in the spring or summer. Bullfrogs are very large, with adults as big as 20 cm in body length. Bullfrog tadpoles are also large and can grow up to 15 cm long.
If you come across a Bullfrog, try to take photos and a GPS location. DO NOT capture or transport Bullfrogs-this can cause more harm than good. You can contact BC Frogwatch with your concerns and they will direct you with what to do next. Additionally, you can report any Bullfrog sightings on the Report Invasives BC mobile app compatible with Android, iPhone and iPad, or via an online form.
For more information on reporting invasive species visit:
Unfortunately, many amphibians and reptiles fall victim to human-made pools. The chemicals in pools can be toxic to many species and the inability to escape a pool can cause them to drown. One simple solution to help wildlife is to purchase floating devices such as “frog logs” that allow wildlife to escape or rest in your pool. Additionally, you can add ramps to your skimmer in your pool to help wildlife escape from this common trap area. If you have a pond in your yard, try to add logs, lily pads, and rocks to help keep wildlife safe from drowning.
Credit: Patrick Alexander
Western Terrestrial Gartersnake
While it may seem scary for some to have a snake in their garden, it can actually be quite beneficial! Snakes like to eat pests such as mice, slugs, and insects, that may be eating or causing destruction to your garden. Therefore, snakes can act as natural pest prevention! To make your yard more snake friendly, you can keep some areas “wild” with longer grass and some rocks for shelter. This will provide snakes with shade to avoid overheating. Be sure to not use any pesticides or chemical fertilizers in your garden as these can be harmful to snakes and other wildlife. Additionally, be careful when moving rocks or wood, as there may be snakes or other wildlife using them for shelter.
If you think you have a rattlesnake in your garden, it is probably best to have it moved to avoid injury. Call the conservation officer service (1-877-952-7277) to get assistance.
While you might think salamanders and lizards look quite similar, they are actually quite different. Salamanders are a type of amphibian and lizards are a type of reptile. Salamanders have skin that stays moist which helps them breathe, whereas lizards typically have dry skin and scales. Lizards also have claws, while salamanders lack claws. Newts, are a type of salamander and can be distinguished from a lizard by their lack of scales.
Warm spring rains often coincide with mating season for some amphibian species. During a rain event, amphibians will often move from their overwintering habitat to nearby ponds to breed. Some species have a small window of time to make this journey which can lead to large numbers of wildlife all moving at the same time. Unfortunately, many individuals meet a road during this journey and do not survive. During a rain event it is best to avoid driving in areas close to ponds or known amphibian habitat. If you must drive, try to drive slowly and watch for wildlife.
Often people think young rattlesnakes are more dangerous than adult rattlesnakes and this is not necessarily true. When rattlesnakes are born, they have a button at the end of their tail that cannot make a sound until the rattlesnake sheds its skin. Therefore, during this life stage, rattlesnakes are unable to use their rattles as a warning signal and people may unknowingly step on them and get bitten. Additionally, people often pick up young rattlesnakes mistaking them for Gophersnakes and ultimately get bitten in the process. Baby rattlesnakes do not have more potent venom than an adult, and in fact, the larger a rattlesnake is the more venom it can store in the sacs in its head. Therefore, a bite from an adult rattlesnake can be much more fatal for this reason. Ultimately, if you are bitten by a rattlesnake, whether it is small or large, always seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Safety Tips :
If you encounter a rattlesnake or any snake, remain calm.
Rattlesnakes are more afraid of you than you are of them and will only strike as a last resort.
Here are a few tips to help you during a snake encounter:
Credit: Andrew Nydam
Western Rattlesnakes coiled together
1. The first thing you should do is STOP. This is to ensure you don’t accidentally step on the snake.
2. Locate the snake.
3. Wait for the snake to move away from you.
4. If the snake does not move, move directly away from the snake and give it lots of space.
5. While moving away be aware of your surroundings and watch for other snakes that may be nearby.
If you like to admire snakes or take photographs, be sure to do this at a distance. Having binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens can help you remain a safe distance from the animal. Always leave snakes alone and try to disturb them as little as possible. Even if you are certain you are dealing with a non-venomous snake like a gartersnake, it is best to not handle it and leave it be. Remember that according to the British Columbia Wildlife Act, it is illegal to capture, kill and transport snakes.
1. Locate the snake (and potentially others) and move at least five meters away from it.
2. Remove restricting clothing immediately (i.e. watches, rings, tight clothing, shoes).
3. Carefully get the victim to the hospital. Call 9-1-1 as soon as possible, so the hospital can prepare for treatment of a rattlesnake bite. If you are alone: remain calm, avoid strenuous activity, call 9-1-1 and try to find help.
4. Monitor the swelling around the bite. Every 15-20 minutes circle the reddened/swollen area and write the time beside the circle
1. Never apply a tourniquet. It can cause more harm to the victim.
2. Never suck out the venom, cut the wound or use a “snake bite kit”.
3. The victim should never drive themselves to the hospital, if you alone call 9-1-1 and be transported via ambulance.
4. Never bring the snake that bit you to the hospital.
Reactions to snake bites vary from person to person. It is best to always seek medical attention as soon as possible. Rattlesnake bites often occur when people handle juvenile rattlesnakes mistaking them for juvenile Gophersnakes. It is good practice to always respect any snake you encounter, give it space and avoid handling it.
If your dog has been bitten by a rattlesnake, call your vet immediately, so they can prepare for your dog or direct you to another clinic. Not all rattlesnake bites require anti-venom, your vet will assess your dog and determine if it is necessary. A dog’s reaction to a rattlesnake bite can vary so it is best to always take them to a vet to ensure their safety. Always keep your dog on leash while recreating in rattlesnake country to avoid negative encounters and bites.
Red-eared Sliders are an invasive species in B.C. They can be distinguished from our native species, the Western Painted Turtle, by their yellow belly and a red streak behind their eye. Red-eared Sliders have been introduced to B.C. by pet-owners abandoning them in our lakes and ponds. Unfortunately, when pet-owners purchase Red-eared Sliders, they do not realize how long they can live (sometimes up to 20-30 years!) and often abandon them when they decide they cannot offer life-long care.
Credit: Brent Myers
Red-eared Sliders introduce diseases to our native turtle species, including respiratory disease. These invasive turtles also compete with our native turtles for food, nesting sites and basking habitat, all of which are already limited due to habitat loss. Remember to never move or relocate Red-eared Sliders as this may help them spread to new locations. If you have a pet Red-eared Slider and can no longer care for it, PLEASE do the responsible thing and surrender it to your local animal shelter or rehome it.
Red-eared Sliders pose as a threat to our already endangered Western Painted Turtles and therefore it is important that we report any sightings of them around the province. You can report any sightings on the Report Invasives BC mobile app compatible with Android, iPhone and iPad, or via an online form. For more information on reporting invasive species visit:
European Wall Lizards were introduced to BC in the 1970’s when a private zoo that housed them closed. Since this time Wall Lizards have expanded their range rapidly across Vancouver Island and there have been reported sightings in Vancouver and Osoyoos. Wall Lizards may populate new areas with the help of transport on farm-vehicles, plants, and food, or through human release of pets. Wall Lizards pose a threat to our native lizard species the Northern Alligator Lizard. Wall Lizards can reproduce more rapidly than Alligator Lizards and can reach maturity earlier meaning they can outnumber Alligator Lizards. This may mean that Alligator Lizards will have to compete with this introduced species for food and suitable habitat. Additionally, Wall Lizards have been found to thrive in warmer temperatures, meaning they may fare well with increasing temperatures due to climate change. To help avoid spread, do not breed, transport, sell or release Wall Lizards.
Credit: William Brown
European Wall Lizard
You can report any sightings on the Report Invasives BC mobile app compatible with Android, iPhone and iPad, or via an online form. For more information on reporting invasive species visit:
Alternatively, you can report any sightings on iNaturalist or Seek
Northern Alligator Lizards and Western Skinks and other lizard species can sometimes be found without a tail. This is due to one of their self-defence tactics. Some lizard species can release or “autotomize” their tail allowing them to either escape a predators grasp or distract the predator. This technique is really only used as a last resort, as the tail is an important fat reserve for these animals. Eventually, they will regenerate their tails that often grow back shorter and fatter.
Credit: J. Maughn
If you have found a salamander in your stairwell or basement it is likely because it was trying to seek shelter or find a place to overwinter. Unfortunately, when salamanders (and other wildlife) seek shelter in our homes it is easier to find a way in than it is to find a way out. If you are able to capture the salamander, be sure to wear gloves to avoid transferring oils or toxins to it. Next, place the salamander in a well aerated box with a lid to transfer it to a safe place. It is probably best that you contact a local wildlife rehabilitation centre, as they will be able to identify the species and determine where and how far to relocate it. Never relocate an animal far away from the location it was found, as this may impact its survival.
Domestic and feral cats heavily impact wildlife and biodiversity in B.C. Cats are not only a predator to birds they also predate on amphibians and reptiles across B.C., particularly in urban areas that border natural habitat. In order to help reduce predation by cats it is important as a cat owner to keep your cat indoors or supervise its outdoor access (by using a harness and leash or keeping it in an enclosed area such as a patio). According to the Stewardship Centre for B.C., by keeping your cat indoors, you are also helping it stay safe from cars, disease, predation, unwanted pregnancy, theft, and toxins. If you encounter a feral cat that appears to be abandoned or without a home, please contact your local SPCA or animal control.
For more information, visit:
Road mortality has become an increasing threat to turtles. If you are driving near a pond or wetland, drive slowly to avoid running over a turtle. Turtles often move across roads during late Spring and Summer to find a nesting site for their eggs or to find mates.
Here are some tips if you encounter a turtle on the road
– It is important to remember to only help a turtle cross the road if it is safe to do so.
– If you see a turtle in the middle of the road while driving, first pull over safely and put your hazards on.
– Be sure to watch for oncoming vehicles in both directions and move the turtle by gently placing one hand on its shell and one hand on its belly (or grasp it on the sides of it shell with both your hands).
– Carry it low across the road to avoid injury if it falls from your grasp. Always move the turtle in the direction it was going and a few meters from the road. – If you are afraid of handling a turtle, try to use a stick or car mat to gently encourage it to move off the road.
– Never transport a turtle to an area you think it is supposed to be versus where you found it, as relocation can be detrimental to them.
If you notice a turtle on the road that has a cracked shell or injuries to its head or limbs, you may want to take it to a nearest animal shelter or wildlife rehabilitation centre. Place the turtle in a container with aeration and a lid in a dark place until you can transport it, or a volunteer can come and retrieve it. If you see a turtle dead on a road, carefully take a picture and a location to report it to local authorities. Move the dead turtle off the road to avoid other wildlife being injured while scavenging.
Credit: Pourya Sardari
Western Painted Turtle
You can report road mortality on iNaturalist on this road mortality project page in BC:
Videos on how to move a turtle across the road:
Female turtles select nesting sites based on many factors including temperature and soil that is loose and sandy. Unfortunately, this type of habitat can be found in problematic areas such as roadsides, beaches, and urban areas such as gardens and compost.
If you see a nest alongside a road, do not disturb the nest and keep your distance. You can report it to B.C. Frogwatch here or you can submit an incidental sighting report here. If you have a turtle nest in your yard or in an area that is under construction, report it to your local wildlife branch. Never dig up and move nests or attempt to incubate them at home, egg collection and transfer requires permits from the provincial government. Caring for turtle eggs is an extremely challenging task and is best only attempted by professional biologists and researchers.
If you are concerned for turtles and want to make a difference, moving turtles off of roads can be very helpful to their survival. Be sure to always move them in the direction they were moving and only move a turtle if it is safe to do so.
If you have accidentally hooked a turtle while angling, do not cut the line, as this could lead to harm and death to the turtle. Reel the turtle in slowly and gently, use a net or grab the back end of the turtle’s shell to pull it out of the water (do not lift by the fishing line to prevent further injury). Touch the turtle as little as possible to avoid being bitten or scratched. If the hook is difficult to remove or appears to be swallowed, call a local rehabilitation centre for assistance. Place the turtle in a cool aerated container and place it in a dark quiet place until help arrives. If the turtle has swallowed the hook, it will most likely need medical attention and perhaps surgery. To avoid hooking and accidentally harming a turtle in the future, stop angling when you see a turtle nearby, use barbless and lead-free hooks, stay in designated fishing areas, and never leave your tackle behind.
Here’s some ways you can help amphibians and reptiles:
Credit: Andrew DuBois
Boreal Chorus Frog
Credit: Mike Cardwell
Credit: Joe Crowley
Western Red-backed Salamander