NPS photo by Gregg Bruff
As would be expected at this northern latitude, herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles) are not numerous. Only 5 reptile and 12 amphibian species are confirmed to exist within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Encounters with snakes are rare, and a hiker might be lucky enough to get only a quick glimpse of an eastern garter or northern red-bellied snake before it slips off the trail into dense vegetation. There are no poisonous snakes in the lakeshore.
Painted turtles may be visible sunning themselves on logs in inland lakes. Keep an eye out for small snapping turtles crossing Sand Point Road in the summer after they hatch from their sand nests. Snapping turtles usually inhabit shallow inland ponds and streams, but on rare occasion one will venture into Lake Superior.
Amphibians are among the lakeshore's more secretive residents. Frogs like northern spring peeper, northern green and wood frog are heard more than seen, especially during the spring mating season. Gray treefrogs are fairly common but difficult to detect as their superb camouflage hides them in the tall trees where they live. Only their surprisingly loud trills alert visitors to their presence. The park's cool, moist woodlands provide perfect habitat and hiding places for salamanders and newts. Pick up logs and branches carefully when collecting firewood as there may be a salamander underneath.
Amphibians worldwide have undergone a decline in the past few decades due to habitat loss and pollutants. Because they are highly sensitive to changing environmental conditions, amphibians are often good indicators of the health of an ecosystem. The park monitors the presence of amphibians each year; however, locating salamanders, frogs and toads in the lakeshore's remote forests and wetlands can be quite a challenge. Park biologists and other researchers use special sound recording equipment to determine the presence of various amphibian species by their distinct vocalizations.