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Amphibian and Reptile Checklists of the United States

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

small state map showing location

Bloomington, Minnesota


Reptiles and Amphibians: a Checklist

Reptiles and amphibians depend on their surroundings for warmth. Temperature, precipitation, soil moisture, humidity, light intensity, wind, and season strictly control their activities. Unlike birds and most mammals, they will remain inactive and very hard to find for weeks if the weather is unfavorable.

Turtles, lizards, and snakes are reptiles which typically have scales. Turtles and lizards also have toes with claws. Salamanders, frogs, and toads are amphibians characterized by moist glandular skins and toes without claws. Young amphibians usually pass through a larval stage in or near water before they transform into adults.

Bullsnakes and western hognose snakes in the Minnesota Valley are indicators of high quality sandy soil and prairie flora. Amphibians are sensitive indicators of water quality which can be monitored closely over time to help document environmental changes.

This checklist includes 30 species which have been reported on the refuge with a matrix that indicates their typical habitats and abundances. Should you spot an unlisted, rare, or uncommon species, please contact the refuge office. We would appreciate your help in updating our records.

Species order follows Conant's "A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America." Common and scientific names are from J. Lang et. al., Amphibians and Reptile Group, Endangered Species Technical Advisory Committee to the Commissioner, Minnesota DNR.


Codes used for habitat types and occurrence are:

1 - oak savanna and dry prairie uplands
2 - floodplain forest and low prairie or meadow
3 - marsh and open water

a - abundant
c - common
u - uncommon
r - rare


TURTLES                                  1    2    3

Snapping Turtle                          -    C    C
(Chelydra serpentina)
Dusky brown to black with a sawtooth rear shell and tail and mean disposition, old 
"Snappers" may weigh as much as 40lbs.  In some parts of the country, they may 
accumulate high levels of environmental pollutants in their bodies.  8"-18'
                                                               
Map Turtle                               -    -    R
(Graptemys geographica)
A shy turtle with a brown to green carapace covered with maplike lines, it has yellow 
stripes on green skin and an isolated yellow spot behind the eye.  4"-11'

False Map Turtle                         -    -    C
(Graptemys pseudogeographica)
These turtles have a brown carapace with light yellow oval markings and dark blotches.  
They have a short yellow bar or C-shaped mark behind their eyes.  4"-11"

Painted Turtle                           U    C    C     
(Chrysemys picta)
A handsome turtle with red and yellow stripes on its legs, neck and tail.  Its smooth 
shell is olive to black with net-like lines and red bars or crescents on the margin.  
4"-10"

Blanding's Turtle                        -    R    R
(Emydoidea blandingi)
An infrequently seen turtle with a long neck and bright yellow chin and throat.  Its 
smooth helmet-like shell is black and irregularly spotted. 5"-10"

Smooth Softshell                         -    -    C
(Trionyx muticus)
Fast moving turtles with pancake like shells which are covered with a smooth leathery 
olive or orange-brown skin.  5"-14"

Spiny Softshell                          -    -    U
(Trionyx spiniferus)
This leather backed turtle has a sandpapery, dark green or tan shell with spines near 
the front edge.  Softshell females may get twice as large as males.  5"-18"

LIZARDS 1 2 3 Prairie Skink - U - (Eumeces septentrionalis) A very elusive lizard, this skink is light brown with four dark brown stripes edged with 7 thin light stripes which extend onto its tail. 5"-8"
SNAKES 1 2 3 Northern Water Snake - C C (Nerodia sipedon) Sometimes called "moccasins" in the southern United States, these non-venomous water snakes are red-brown or gray to black with dark crossbands on the neck. Dark back markings are wider than the spaces between them. 22"-53" Brown (DeKay's) Snake - U U (Storeria dekayi) This shy white bellied snake is gray to brown with 2 parallel rows of small dark spots on each side of an indistinct light gray to brown back stripe. 10"-21" Redbelly Snake - U U (Storeria occiptomaculata) A small snake which may be either brown, gray, or black; it has a red belly and three light spots on the nape of its neck. 9"-19" Common Garter Snake C A A (Thamnophis sirtalis) Most widely distributed snake in North America with highly variable coloration. Ours have dark lateral stripes on scale rows 2 and 3 with red blotches on light stripes. 18"-51" Plains Garter Snake C C C (Thamnophis radix) Bright yellow to orange back stripe and a double row of square black spots between this and side stripes. Look for a row of black spots below the side stripes. 20"-40" Western Hognose Snake C U - (Heterodon nasicus) A heavily bodied snake with an abruptly upturned and pointed snout. Noted for playing dead if it cannot bluff or retreat from an antagonist. Its belly and underside of tail are patterned with large black blotches. 16"-35" Racer U - - (Coluber constrictor) This fast moving snake is pale blue or blue-green above and white or blue-white underneath. When annoyed, it often vibrates its tail in dry leaves. 34"-77" Smooth Green Snake - U - (Opheodrys vernalis) A beautiful little green snake which hunts insects and spiders. Underside is white tinged with pale yellow. 14"-26" Fox Snake U C C (Elaphe vulpina) Fox snakes are yellowish to light brown marked with dark brown to black blotches down the back to tail and have two alternating rows of smaller blotches on its side. 30"-60" Gopher Snake C U - (Pituophis melanoleucus) Bullsnakes are yellowish with 41 or more black, brown, or red-brown body blotches. They feed on rodents. 48"-100" Milk Snakes - U - (Lampropeltis triangulum) Tan to gray with a light Y or V-shaped patch on nape or neck and dark brown to red blotches down its length. 26"-52"
SALAMANDERS 1 2 3 Mudpuppy - - U (Necturus maculosus) This large aquatic salamander is gray and brown with large dark blue spots and reddish or purple gills. 8"-17" Eastern Newt - U U (Notophthalmus viridescens) Newts secrete a poison through their skins to discourage predators. This aquatic species has a brown back and yellow belly. 2 1/2-5 1/2 Blue-Spotted Salamander - R - (Ambystoma laterale) A trim creature, this salamander is gray to blue-black with large blue-white flecks. 3"-5" Tiger Salamander - C - (Ambystoma tigrinum) These animals burrow in the soil. They are nocturnal and have a variable yellow pattern on a black body. 6"-13"
TOADS 1 2 3 American Toad C C C (Bufo americanus) Great friends of gardeners, these mostly nocturnal toads have brown spots and brown, to orange-red warts. 2"-4"
FROGS 1 2 3 Spring Peeper - C C (Hyla crucifer) Tan, brown, or gray with a dark X on its back, the peeper's high-pitched chorus is one of the first signs of spring. 3/4"-1 3/8" Gray Tree Frog - C - (Hyla versicolor) Rough green, brown or gray skin with dark blotches on its back. Under surfaces of thighs are bright yellow orange. Its call is a short loud trill. 1 1/4"-2 3/8" Striped Chorus Frog - C C (Pseudacris triseriata) Colors variable green, gray to brown with three dark stripes down back and a white stripe along upper lip. Early nocturnal frogs with short call aptly described al like the sound of a fingernail running over the small teeth of a comb. 3/4"-1 1/2" Green Frog - - C (Rana clamitans) Mainly nocturnal. Green to green-brown frogs whose call is sudden banjo-like "chug". 2 1/8"-4" Wood Frog - C - (Rana sylvatica) Wood frogs are brown to greenish above with a distinctive black mask ending behind their eardrums and a ducklike quacking call 1 3/8"-3 1/4" Northern Leopard Frog U A A (Rana pipiens) A trim green to brown frog with irregular light edged dark spots. Call is a deep resonant snore. 2"-5"

Field Notes

Date______________________________ No. Species_________________________________

Time Afield________________________ Observers__________________________________

Weather________________________________________________________________________

Remarks________________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________________
For additional information, and to report unusual animal sightings, please contact:
                 Refuge Manager
                 Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
                 3815 East 80th Street
                 Bloomington, Minnesota 55425-1600
                 Telephone: 612/335-2323 Visitor Center
                            612/335-2299 Recorded Information

This resource is based on the following source:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1991.  Reptiles and amphibians of the Minnesota 
     Valley National Wildlife Refuge, recreation area and state trail.  U.S. 
     Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unpaginated.
This resource should be cited as:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1991.  Reptiles and amphibians of the Minnesota 
     Valley National Wildlife Refuge, recreation area and state trail.  
     Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.
     http://www.npwrc.usgs.govmnvalamp.htm 
     (Version 22MAY98).

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