Amphibians and Reptiles of Montgomery County
Amphibians and reptiles are cold-blooded vertebrates(having a backbone) and are collectively called herpetofauna or "herps" for short. Although they are often discussed together and some may even look similar, there are several differences between the two groups.
Where Can I find Amphibians and Reptiles?
Montgomery County is home to almost 60 species of amphibians and reptiles. The best way to find them is to get outside and look! Here is a guide on how to find these animals in the wild:
Amphibians spend at least part of their lives in water habitats such as flowing streams, seasonal pools, or other wetland types. The eggs of amphibians lack a hard outer covering and must be laid in water or in damp places. Most amphibians hatch as aquatic larvae with gills. As these animals grow into adults, most amphibians develop lungs which they use to breathe, and are capable of living both on land and in water (some salamanders never develop lungs and breathe entirely through their skin).
To find out more check out: Towson University Amphibians of Maryland
Reptiles found in Montgomery County include four species of lizard, 17 species of snake, and nine species of turtle. These animals are an important part of the County's ecosystem. Reptiles help maintain a healthy food web, and benefit residents by controlling pests like mice, rats, and insects. Reptiles use lungs to breathe, and generally lay eggs in terrestrial habitats (on land). The eggs of reptiles have a thick, hard shell that protects the developing embryo from moisture loss, even on dry land.
To find out more check out: Towson University Reptiles of Maryland
What Can I Do to Help?
Montgomery County's reptiles and amphibians are at risk! Development, habitat destruction, water quality decline, and loss of wetlands all impact reptile and amphibian population.
How to Help:
Most of all show respect for our County's Reptiles and Amphibians! They are extremely important to our environment and will be sorely missed, if they were to ever disappear.
In 2014, Montgomery County launched the FrogWatch USA program to train County residents on how to identify frogs and toads. Volunteers are trained to identify frog and toad calls at a wetland site and to report their data online. Data is compiled and analyzed to develop conservation strategies for frog and toad species, and their habitat.
Want to join our next season of FrogWatch? Visit the County's FrogWatch website
If you want to learn more about Maryland's Reptiles and Amphibians, check out these links:
Monitoring and Data
DEP recognizes the importance of amphibians and reptiles as indicators of water quality and includes them in the County's biological monitoring program. DEP is using its amphibian and reptile monitoring program to:
Assess stream conditions
Evaluate watershed health
Provide a service to County Residents
Montgomery County began a pilot program in 2001 to gather distributional data. The methods and data were evaluated in 2007, after which a full amphibian and reptile monitoring program was established in 2008.
The goal of the pilot program was to get a general idea of presence or absence of herpetofauna species in the County and to investigate a future index of biological integrity (IBI). From 2001-2007, DEP collected herpetofauna data as part of a pilot program. The pilot program consisted of spring and summer ten-minute visual encounter survey searches on both sides of the stream and in the stream channel. Findings of herpetofauna habitat were also recorded. Amphibians and reptiles were anecdotally noted in electrofishing or benthic collections.
In addition to general herpetofauna searches, targeted searches for vernal pools were done with the intent of better understanding their distribution throughout the County. Vernal pools, also known as seasonal pools, are small temporary wetlands that are isolated from other permanent surface water connections, have fluctuating water levels and dry periodically. Vernal pools have a distinctive biological community of animals that are specially adapted to these conditions (Brown and Jung 2005).
Two methods were utilized for surveying vernal pools:
In the summer of 2007, Montgomery County conducted stream salamander sampling using Maryland Biological Stream Survey methods (MD DNR, CBWP/MANTA 2007) at twelve stations. Stations were selected based on an inferred likelihood of encountering stream salamanders, crayfish, and freshwater mussels.
Three-part Sampling Techniques
Following evaluation of the pilot program, DEP determined that herpetofauna data is important to collect, and moved to monitoring via:
Time-constrained searches are conducted during spring and summer in conjunction with other biological monitoring (benthic macroinvertebrates and fish). The stream channel and left and right riparian areas (vegetated areas paralleling the stream) associated with the 75 meter stream sampling segment are searched for 10 minutes each. Searches are based on visual encounter surveys of best available habitat. Preferred herpetofauna habitat consists primarily of cover objects (logs, rocks, vegetation, and even trash) and wetlands (such as seeps, springs, and seasonal pools). Species, life stage (adult, larva, egg), number of individuals, and type of habitat searched are recorded. Amphibians and reptiles found in vernal/seasonal pools are recorded, but no special search effort or data collection is applied to seasonal pools.
Incidental encounters of herpetofauna consist of any amphibian or reptile observed outside of a search effort. This could occur while collecting organisms for benthic macroinvertebrate or fish sampling, evaluating habitat, collecting water quality, accessing a site, setting up a block net, or just walking around. The species, life stage, and number of individuals found are recorded along with the method of observation (incidental stream channel, riparian, D-net/electrofishing).
Stream salamander targeted sampling is being incorporated as a focus of the amphibian and reptile monitoring. In 2008, stream salamander data was collected at sites too small to fish (where only benthic macroinvertebrates had been collected) and in areas selected for long term monitoring (Special Protection Areas and Clarksburg Integrated Ecological Study Areas).
Stream Salamander Index of Biotic Integrity
Data from the first year (2008) of stream salamander sampling will be evaluated using the Stream Salamander Index of Biotic Integrity (SS-IBI) (Southerland et al. 2004; Southerland and Franks 2008). The current metrics for the SS-IBI in the Piedmont Region are:
This evaluation will determine if a modification to the IBI scoring methodology is needed. The IBI is being evaluated by the Maryland Biological Stream Survey.
Data and Species List
Available Data: Montgomery County has amphibian and reptile data from its pilot program (2001-2007). Data from 2008 is expected to be available in the future.
Interested in other DEP monitoring data? Visit our Monitoring webpage for a list of the different monitoring data sets the County collects.