Top Five Alberta Herping Spots
AARC Blog #5 - Top Five Alberta Herping Spots
Exotic, Wildlife and Zoo Animal Health Technologist and AARC Board Member
Alberta is a vast province with various biomes which include short grass prairie, aspen parkland, boreal forest and mountainous regions. Our province has a rich history in prehistoric herpetofauna but our current climate has slowed the repatriation of extant species since the void created by the last ice age and ending approximately 12,000 years ago. Nonetheless we have 19 species of very charismatic reptiles and amphibians to observe while we are enjoying the great outdoors. If you are looking for a herp orientated adventure try my selection of Alberta’s top herping locations. My selection process took into account public accessibility, variety of habitat and geography, and covering all native species.
- Dinosaur Provincial Park
This is a world class herping spot right here in Alberta. The fantastic badland scenery is a hotbed for prehistoric activity and the Royal Tyrell Museum has a research station and education centre. There are also camping facilities and plenty of herp species to discover. Bull snakes and prairie rattlesnakes are most common but plains and wandering garter snakes can also be found. Spadefoot toads and northern leopard frogs are common amphibians in the area. Drive slowly once off the main highway as you approach the park because snakes commonly are found on the road!http://www.albertaparks.ca/dinosaur.aspx#
- Elk Island National Park and Cooking Lake / Blackfoot Recreation Area
With the facilities of a national park and large endless tracts of aspen parkland, these combined areas are a great central Alberta getaway. Enjoy the megafauna of bison and elk as you hike the many kilometers of trails around the numerous wetlands. Wood frogs, boreal chorus frogs, boreal toads and tiger salamanders are very numerous in the region. Plains garter snakes are a common sight to see basking on the trails. Red sided garter snakes can also be found.http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/elkisland/index.aspx
- West Castle Wetlands in Kananaskis Country
This is the most remote of my selections but it’s the one place readily available to find both Columbia spotted frogs and long toed salamanders, both beautiful and enigmatic species. This mountainous habitat is undeveloped and there are no facilities so bring a lunch and carry out any garbage. The breathtaking scenery and unmistakable mountain fresh air is a unique place to go herping.http://www.albertaparks.ca/west-castle-wetlands.aspx
- Writing on Stone Provincial Park
Reptiles love the south! Writing on Stone PP is a long trek for most Albertans but I highly suggest making it a summer vacation spot. The milk river valley is an intricate mosaic of hoodoos and erosive landscape where bull snakes, rattlesnakes, and garter snakes are common. You may even find a western hognose snake or if extremely lucky you could find Alberta’s latest native, the yellowbelly racer. To find species that only barely enter the province like the racer, and the western painted turtle, you will likely have to drive east on the sparse and deserted backroads. Go slow, they may be right on the road!http://www.albertaparks.ca/writing-on-stone.aspx
- Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park
Cypress Hills is another of Alberta’s geologic wonders. The hills tower above the surrounding prairie and their elevation offers cooler temperatures and forest cover. The park has lots of camping, fishing and hiking opportunities. Leopard frogs and garter snakes can be found and if you’re lucky you may observe a western hognose snake.http://www.albertaparks.ca/cypress-hills.aspx
Just off the bubble of this list is your neighborhood wetland. Don’t underestimate the pleasantness of the frog calls during a casual evening walk, or a gartersnake crossing the path on a morning stroll. These often ignored habitats are often havens for wildlife of all sorts. Their close proximity offers an intimacy with nature without the stress and planning of a road trip.
Look forward to my future blog about herping etiquette so we can all have fun without negatively affecting our cold blooded friends