Herpetofauna: Reptiles and Amphibians of Tommy Thompson Park
It is uncertain when the first herpetiles arrived at TTP, but they have appeared and established populations at the park. Herpetiles have immigrated to TTP via several possible routes: though natural or manmade corridors like the Don River valley or hydro rights-of-way, as well as via the lake and the lakeshore.
Ontario's snakes occupy a wide range of habitats including those found at TTP. Open grasslands, rocky areas and woodlands are examples of snake habitat that can be found at TTP. Their success at the park is due to overall habitat improvements as well as enhancements that have targeted their life history processes. One of the biggest limiting factors to establishing snake populations are the availability of hibernacula or underground overwintering dens. While there are many areas suitable for snake hibernacula at TTP, TRCA constructed a hibernaculum on site to ensure overwintering success. Interestingly, although designed for snakes, one of the first users of this habitat was the resident coyotes who used it as a den for several seasons.
• Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis)
Gatersnakes are likely the most common reptile at TTP. TTP has a significant population of melanistic gartersnakes normally found along the shores of Lake Erie.
Turtles are the most visible reptile at TTP and likely one of the most observable wildlife species at TTP since they can often be seen basking on logs or rocks on warm summer days. A number of habitat enhancement techniques have targeted turtles; these include the provision of woody material just above water level for basking and the creation of south-facing well drained substrate for turtle nesting.
• Midland Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta marginata)
Painted turtles are the most common species of turtle at TTP. They can be found in all aquatic areas of the park; particularly where half-submerged logs or rocks can be used for basking. A similar species is the red-eared slider, an introduced species. They are commonly kept as pets and every year some are unfortunately and irresponsibily released into the wild where they not only compete with native turtles, but may also spread disease. Please never release any wildlife, native or exotic, into the wild - they may not be able to survive and may have significant adverse effects on the entire food web.
Ongoing habitat enhancement projects at Tommy Thompson Park are designed to increase amphibian habitat by creating and protecting permanent and seasonally flooded pools critical for amphibian breeding. The following three amphibians have been documented as successfully breeding at TTP. Look for adult toads and leopard frogs in the meadow areas of the park and look for green frogs in wetlands especially at the shorelines of marshes like the Cell One Wetland.
• American Toad (Bufo americanus)