Alaska’s cold weather comes as no surprise to anyone in the United States. Of course a changing climate means warming trends in Alaska ought not surprise anyone also. Because amphibians and reptiles adapted to more temperate climates, Alaska herps have, to turn a phrase, been left out in the cold.
To date only eight amphibian species (frogs and salamanders) have been documented in the state. Two of the frog species have recently been introduced from their natural Pacific Northwest habitat.
With respect to Alaska reptiles, stories swirl about potential garter snake and red-eared slider sightings in Alaska. Perhaps a few captive or pet snakes and turtles have been released into the wild. While a handful of sea turtles can be found swimming in Alaska waters, to date no snakes, turtles or lizards have been documented as native Alaskan species.
Here’s a quick run down of the native Alaska herps.
The top picture shows a Pacific Chorus Frog (Pseudacris regilla). It’s one of the introduced species and found in only one location along the southeast coast.
Wood Frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) are definitely the true Alaskan herp. They are hardy frogs that live in forested areas in many parts of the state.
Red-legged Frogs (Rana aurora) are the other introduced species and can be found in a few panhandle locations. They are native to the West Coast.
Columbia Spotted Frogs (Rana luteiventris) are also a Pacific Northwest species that adapted to the colder weather of the southeast coastal areas.
Boreal Toads (Anaxyrus boreas) or Western Toads are Alaska’s only toad species. The white stripe down the back is a very good field identification clue. They too only inhabit areas of the southeast coastal region of the state.
The panhandle area also counts three salamander species as residents. Rough-skinned Newts (Taricha granulosa) are aquatic creatures. They become visible during the spring rainy season.
Northwestern Salamanders (Ambystoma gracile) are usually a very dull color and live among the leaves of forest floors.
The yellow back of the Long-toed Salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum) makes it easy to ID. They too live in the forested areas of the southeast coast.