How to Create and Enhance Habitat for Herpetofauna
Here are some things to consider if you would like to create herpetofauna-friendly habitat:
Give a lot of thought to whether or not you actually want to attract reptiles and amphibians into your yard, especially if you live in an area with rattlesnakes or amphibians that may be toxic to pets or small children. If you decide that you want to welcome the local herpetofauna, be careful not to disturb them, only observe them from a distance, and watch out for them when driving, mowing the lawn, etc.
For more information on living with rattlesnakes, see : https://wildsafebc.com/species/rattlesnake/
Having suitable, unfragmented habitat is important for reptiles and amphibians. Avoid uniform habitat, as they need to be able to move easily between open areas, covered areas, and water bodies. Native vegetation is best, and avoid using fertilizers and pesticides if possible. These can be detrimental to reptile and amphibian health, causing deformities, stunted growth, increased disease susceptibility, and even death. Having a healthy prey base is also important, so don’t get rid of bugs and mice – amphibians and reptiles will do it for you!
Amphibians require suitable aquatic habitats, since their eggs are laid in water and their larvae develop there. Some reptiles, like turtles and gartersnakes, also use water bodies. If there are ponds on your property, try to keep them free of invasive reptiles, amphibians, fish, and plants. Also, avoid activities that will greatly disrupt the area or pollute the water.
Ectotherms (i.e., reptiles and amphibians) require cover objects or retreat sites to escape the heat and regulate their body temperatures. These hiding spots also provide protection from predators. You can create cover for reptiles and amphibians with large rocks, rock piles, leaves, logs, or you can even create a “Toad Abode” in your garden.
Be sure to protect any potential reptile or amphibian hotspots on your land by avoiding disturbance in those areas. Snake hibernacula (dens) are usually found on south-facing rocky slopes, and ponds are essential for breeding amphibians. Always consult a local government biologist if you are wanting to create snake refugia or ponds for amphibians on your property.
Remember, wildlife will not always use shelter you have provided, but if they do, it is important to give them space and view them from afar.