Columbia County Reptiles and Amphibians

Columbia County Reptiles and Amphibians is our project to document reptile and amphibian species, or “herps”, across Columbia County. Jon Hakim and Matt D’Agrosa (with a lot of help!) are surveying the county by foot, reviewing literature and museum records online, and crowd sourcing citizen naturalist data. Together we hope to create the first herp inventory of our region.

amphibians frogs salamanders columbia county oregon
Clockwise from top left: Northern Red-legged Frog, Northern Pacific Treefrog, Western Red-backed Salamander, Columbia Torrent Salamander, Long-toed Salamander, Northwestern Salamander, Rough-skinned Newt, Coastal Giant Salamander, American Bullfrog

“Why are you doing this?”

Our project goals are to:

  1. Map the county to show which herps are widespread and which are limited
  2. Find herps that haven’t been reported in the county
  3. Identify which habitats support rarely seen herps
  4. Get the public engaged on outdoors issues

You can find more information on our iNaturalist post:

Why Your Data Matters

“We saw a toad in our yard. How can we participate?

Anyone can share data with us via Just take a photo and upload it (with location) to the iNaturalist website. If you download their free app, you can use the app to take a photo of a reptile/amphibian and the app does the rest of the work for you. You’ll find more information at the following link:

How to enter data for Columbia County Amphibians and Reptiles

If you don’t want to use iNaturalist, we’re happy for you to send us the info via email instead. That goes especially for researchers who have already completed surveys or published research with sites within Columbia County. Use the following form to get in touch with us.

If you’re not sure how to search for herps, or want to get your students involved, scroll down for more information. Feel free to ask any questions you have.

“We’d love to help, but how do we find herps?”

Looking for reptiles and amphibians, also known as “herping”, is a skill. One trick is to search at the right time: our amphibians like it moist and mild, while our reptiles like it warm but not too hot or too dry. The next factor is to search the right place: usually near water bodies or other habitat edges, such as field edges or the margins of rocky areas. And finally, you need to search the right way. Some herps are active in the open and you must be vigilant to spot them before they see you. Others hide under cover objects, which you must check under and then carefully replace.

Click the link for more information (with example pictures) on how to find reptiles and amphibians:

How to find our reptiles and amphibians
Reptiles lizards snakes turtles of Columbia County Oregon
Top: Northern Rubber Boa, Western Pond Turtle, Red-spotted Garter Snake, Northwestern Garter Snake, Western Terrestrial Garter Snake
Middle: Western Skink, Red-spotted Garter Snake, Northwestern Garter Snake, Northern Alligator Lizard
Bottom: Red-eared Slider, Western Yellow-bellied Racers, Western Painted Turtle

“We have a student who would like to participate. Can we get their school involved?”

We’re glad you asked! Matt and Jon have collaborated with five local schools, though the pandemic did delay our efforts there quite a bit. We’re both vaccinated and boosted, and happy to follow all rules for classroom interaction.

The following link describes our project to educators and gives the options for student collaboration in detail:

Columbia County Reptiles and Amphibians in Schools

What happens to my data?

Every time someone enters a reptile or amphibian from Columbia County into iNaturalist, we add it to our database. We’ve divided the county into 100 equal-sized sections, and we’re marking whenever a species is found in one of those sections.

When the project is over, we will write and publish a paper on our findings. The paper will list how many reptiles and amphibians were recorded and include maps showing which sectors each species was found in, like this:

Northwestern Salamander occurrences in Columbia County
Northwestern Salamander occurrences in Columbia County

Thanks for reading, and we’d love to have your participation! If you want to learn more about hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing here in Columbia County, continue exploring the website. Happy herping!

kids herping in columbia county oregon reptiles and amphibians

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3 thoughts on “Columbia County Reptiles and Amphibians

  1. This project covers one of the least known areas in Oregon and new records will help define distributin patterns much better than currently known. Fine to stop a square for new recors but when you submit to a journal, you need to follow basic guidelines (e.g, in Herp Review) such as: photo documentation or other; verified by _____, and then basic locality data and dates. I prefer a dot distribution map (e.g., see Nussbaum et al 1983 Amph Reptiles Pacific NW…). Each dot covers a fairly wide area so does not reveal specific location. I do not see any species there that are on Federal lists but some as State sensitive and you need to coordiante with them. Good luck. Also, it will be a challenge to differentiate (especially small ones) for Coastl Giant Sal. (Dicamptodon tenebrosus) and Cop’e Giant Sal (D. copeis) because both are in that region. Details in Foster et al. (2015). Totally up to you, but you might also make a field key for garter snakes (Thamnophis spp.) that are highly variable across their range but often distinguisable at specific locations (e.g, one county) good luck. rbbury Foster, A.D., Olson, D.H. and Jones, L.L., 2015. A review of the biology and conservation of the Cope’s giant salamander Dicamptodon copei Nussbaum, 1970 (Amphibia: Caudata: Dicamptodontidae) in the Pacific northwestern region of the USA. The Excitement of Biology, 2(4), pp.210-246.


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