The objective of the Nova Scotia
Herpetofaunal Atlas (NS Herp Altas) is to determine the current
distribution and abundance of Nova Scotia's amphibians and reptiles
(herps). The project will run from 1999-2003 and will conclude with the
publication of a hard-copy atlas in 2004. The information collected by
volunteer atlassers will provide important data for use in the
development of land use and management plans and in conservation
strategies for our Nova Scotia herps. This data will also provide a
baseline from which to measure changes in the distribution and
abundance of species now and in the future.
Data collected will be recorded within
10 x 10 km mapbook squares from the mapbook A
Map of the Province of Nova Scotia.
The province is divided into 744 10 x 10 km squares which fall on 45
mapbook pages (see the map of NS on page 4). The objective is to record
what species are present in as many squares as possible.
In Nova Scotia we have thirteen species
of amphibians and nine species of reptiles. Some species or colour
forms are of particular interest because of their rarity or limited
distribution. These species or colour forms are referred to as starred
(*) species or colour forms, and for these more specific information
must be recorded (see the section on page 6).
OUR WEB SITE
The Herp Atlas has a website, where you can
find additional information about the NS Herp Atlas project, the text
of this Atlasser's Guide, information on the biology and status of each
species of herp, a good illustration of each species, playable
recordings of the amphibian calls, and an Atlas Database. The database
contains the 3081 historic records from the Nova Scotia Museum of
Natural History, as well as other historic records, and all new data
submitted for the duration of the atlas. The website address is: http://landscape.acadiau.ca/herpatlas
NOVA SCOTIA MAPBOOK
This map provides an
overview of the 45 mapbook pages and the 744 mapbook squares covering
[Click the image to
HERP ATLAS COVERAGE GOALS
Ideally at the end of the atlassing period
(i.e. 2003) every mapbook square in the province would be atlassed.
Recognizing the difficulty of this we have set an absolute minimum goal
of 3 non-adjacent mapbook squares per page. To locate a target square
for searching, click here. Non-adjacent
means not touching at the sides or the corners.
This diagram represents a mapbook page
from the book A Map of the Province of NS. The black mapbook squares
are non-adjacent whereas the grey mapbook square at B1 is considered
adjacent to the black mapbook square at C2.
To consider a square adequately
sampled a minimum of 75 % of the species expected for that square must
be recorded, where the species expected are all non-starred species.
For most squares this will be 13 of 17 non-starred species. We will
keep track of this and inform all atlassers when a square is complete.
Becoming an Atlasser
You can register as an atlasser online at
our DATABASE or by
mailing in an atlas card. You will be assigned an Atlasser Number that
can be used in future data entry and correspondence.
Simply familiarize yourself with the
identification of the amphibian and reptile species of NS and follow
the steps in this guide, begin to collect data, and submit your
sightings to the NS Herp Atlas.
Any and all herp sightings are important
data for the atlas. You can record data as an incidental sighting if
you just happen to see a herp while you are out doing other activities.
For instance, a dead Snapping Turtle seen on the highway on your way to
the airport is a valuable record, and should be reported, but since it
was not actively looked for it is incidental. However, if you are able
to go out specifically in search of amphibians and reptiles, this is
Where to Go Atlassing
Go where you know there are herps, or where
you know there is suitable habitat for them. Check out potential
breeding ponds in spring, and check roads (dirt or paved) on rainy
nights for migrating amphibians. Turn over (and always replace) rotten
logs or rocks in almost any habitat at any time in spring, summer or
early fall for snakes and salamanders.
The herp season is actually quite long. It
starts in very early spring with the first calling of Northern Spring
Peepers and Wood Frogs, and extends to mid or late fall (November) when
Redback Salamanders activity has been reported and the last Maritime
Garter Snakes enter hibernation.
Choosing Your Squares
To determine which squares to search in the
province, go to the mapbook square "search screen" on the web site.
This will enable you to search for squares, pages, or species and will
provide a list showing you where the gaps in the atlas coverage are. Or
you can visit the "mapping screen" which will plot the results of your
search on the atlas map of NS. The "help screen" will explain how to
conduct this type of search. If you do not have access to the internet,
contact us and we will get you the information.
When searching the database to choose
squares do not select historic records, as they do not count as atlas
records (i.e. current records). In the early stages of the atlas
virtually every square needs atlassing.
Recording Your Data
Data can be entered on an atlas card or
on-line at our web site. Data records should be submitted for each
visit to a square by a person. If several people go into a square at
the same time they should enter data separately unless they act as a
single observer and all see/hear exactly the same things. For such a
group, fill in the name, address and phone number of the person
submitting the data.
Web Site Record Entry
There are two separate entry screens: one
for the common species and one for the starred (*) species or colour
forms. Every "entry screen" has a HELP button. Please read the "HELP
screen" before entering data, to ensure that you know what should be
entered, and how it should be formatted.
The following is a list of all of the
amphibian and reptile species of Nova Scotia. The starred (*) species
or colour forms are of special concern because of their rarity or
limited distribution. For these species additional information must be
recorded (see page 6).
The data acquired by this atlas will be
used for conservation and management plans and it is important to
obtain reliable data. Therefore, if you aren't reasonably certain or
positive about what species you saw or heard, don't submit that data.
If uncertain, try to get a better look or listen, or revisit the spot
later if you can.
To aid in species identification all
atlassers are provided with a water-proof species identification guide with colour illustrations of all herp species and the
status of those that are rare or threatened. Also, see our web site for
more information on each species.
John Gilhen's Amphibians and
Reptiles of Nova Scotia (Nova Scotia Museum 1984) is an excellent
source of information and illustrations of NS herps, including
illustrations that show the variations in the forms and colour phases.
It is available in most libraries, and from the NS Museum of Natural
History gift shop.
Frogs in NS are easily identified by
their calls. You can listen to these calls at the following NS Museum
web site (following the links to this site off our web site). http://museum.ednet.ns.ca/mnh/educ/frogwtch/voices.htm
Most amphibian eggs and larval stages
are not easy to identify to species without experience; however, if you
are certain please enter the appropriate species information.
OR FORMS OF HERPS IN NOVA SCOTIA
The following is a list of all of the
amphibian and reptile species that may be encountered in Nova Scotia.
The starred (*) species or colour forms are of special concern because
of their rarity or limited distribution.
* Blue-spotted Salamander
* ALSO triploid female
Red-spotted Newt / red eft
Eastern Redback Salamander
* ALSO all red phase
* Four-toed Salamander
Eastern American Toad
Northern Spring Peeper
Eastern Mainland & and
Cape Breton Island
Southwestern Nova Scotia
Northern Leopard Frog
* = species or forms of rare or
Common Snapping Turtle
Eastern Mainland & Cape
* Wood Turtle
* Blanding's Turtle
Eastern Painted Turtle
Eastern Mainland & Cape
* non-native turtles
marine turtles (not listed here)
Please report any marine turtle
sightings to the Nova Scotia
Leatherback Sea Turtle Working
Northern Redbelly Snake
* Northern Ribbon Snake
Maritime Garter Snake
* ALSO melanistic phase
Northern Ringneck Snake
Maritime Smooth Green Snake
See map of Nova Scotia on page 4 for Eastern
Mainland, Southwestern NS and Cape Breton Island
regions for * species.
TO RECORD FOR ALL SPECIES
Life Stage Terms
Most life stages are evidence of breeding,
so it is important to record the life stage when you can. Life stage
terms include: adult, juvenile, newly-transformed juvenile, hatchling,
larva, tadpole, polliwog, red eft, egg mass, egg, eggs in nest.
Some of them are not self-evident:
"tadpole" refers to the tailed larva of any frog, with or without
developing limbs; "polliwog" is the very small black tadpole of the
American Toad. In salamanders, the "larva" is the aquatic juvenile
stage that has external gills.
Once the salamander has lost its gills
and come onto land it is called a "juvenile" as long as it is smaller
than adult size.
In frogs and toads, "juvenile" refers to
the fully-formed adult-shaped young after they have transformed but
before they have reached adult size. The "newly transformed juveniles"
are the smallest.
"Red eft" is the bright red/orange
terrestrial juvenile stage of the Red-spotted Newt and is sometimes
misidentified as a Redback Salamander.
Counting and Estimating
Counts are extremely valuable, so please
count whenever you can. Even rough estimates of numbers, however, are
better than nothing at all. The card and entry screens have a box for
either a count or an estimate for each category (seen alive, seen dead
Live and Dead
We ask you to distinguish between live and
dead specimens because amphibians suffer high mortality on roads and
this data on road kill numbers could provide very useful information in
the long term.
The square name is a combination of the
page number, the column and the row. The page number is the number in
the upper left or right corner, NOT the number circled on the middle of
each edge. Each square on a page is designated by a column letter (A-E)
and a row number (1-5). For example, 14A2 or 23C4. Single digit page
numbers are preceded by a zero (09B1, 04A3) so that they will sort in
the proper order.
If you are not certain of the mapbook
square please include a description of the location and email or call
us and we will help determine the mapbook square.
Most Prominent Feature
As an error check, record the most
prominent piece of text in the square; the one in the largest or
boldest type, or closest to the middle of the square.
Person Hours vs. Incidental Records
Person hours is the amount of time spent
searching for herps in any mapbook square. If more than one person
searches an area but remain together the entire time and see exactly
the same things then this must be submitted as a visit by one observer.
If no species are found but you have spent time searching please report
this too. It is important for the atlas to know the total amount of
time spent searching regardless of whether species were found or not.
Incidental Records involve no searching time. These are records of
things seen in passing or by accident, for which there was no active
searching. This data is important; however, it must be noted as
incidental to separate it from the records where search time was
TO RECORD FOR STARRED (*) SPECIES OR FORMS
For the starred (*) species or colour
forms the additional information below must be recorded in the shaded
area of the atlas card or on the starred species entry screen on the
Describe the location as precisely as you
can, in terms of exact distance in km or meters in two directions from
a reference point like a town, a highway junction, river crossing,
highway exit number, etc. -- not the edge of a lake or an island. For
example: 1.8 km north and 0.2 km east of Birch Hill or 850 m north and
30 m west of Exit 12 on Highway 102.
This will enable someone to return to
the exact location and provide us with an error check for the specific
Topographic Map Information
Accurate UTM (Universal Transverse
Mercator) coordinates (easting and northing) which are similar to a
latitude and longitude cannot be determined from the mapbook A Map of
the Province of NS because the scale is too small. Therefore easting
and northing must be obtained from a topographic map.
Please Note: If you do not have
access to topographic maps or are uncertain of how to determine an
easting or northing please call or email. We can send you a photocopy
of the topographic map for your area and you can simply mark the
location on the photocopy and send it back to us.
UTM Easting and Northing
Detailed instructions for determining both
numbers are given on the right margin of the topographic map sheet.
Map Sheet Number and Year
The map sheet number is given in the lower
right margin of the map sheet: e.g., 11D/4, 21A/6. Year is the year of
publication found to the left of the sheet number.
Record the time of your sighting using a 24
hour clock. Enter as a 4-digit number with no separators, for example:
0925 or 1540.
If photos were taken, give details of what
they show (whole specimens, close-ups of specimens, habitats, etc.),
what kind of film (slide or colour print), and who has them. If there
is any question of the identity of the species sighted please make
copies available to the Herp Atlas.
If specimens are collected for any special
reason (casual collecting is not encouraged) they should be deposited
at the Acadia University Wildlife Museum or the Nova Scotia Museum of
Natural History in Halifax.
Breeding Evidence, Abnormalities
For all starred species, record any
evidence of breeding (nests, eggs, egg masses, larvae, juveniles) and
any breeding behaviour (nest-digging, calling males, egg-laying
females). Also keep a special lookout for any signs of deformed,
extra-limbed or unusually coloured herps.
Also for the starred (*) species or
colour forms, the additional information below must be recorded in the
shaded area of the atlas card or on the "starred species" entry screen
on the web site.
Use the terms below, or combinations of
them, to describe the habitat in which starred species or colour forms
were found. For instance, a water body can be within a bog, a woodland,
a wet meadow, or a barren. When appropriate, use qualifiers like
"small", "old", "narrow", "shallow", etc. If it was on any kind of
road, give the habitat the road passes through (by itself, road is
meaningless). If a herp was found where two habitats meet, or where one
habitat is enclosed by another, make it clear which is which; e.g.
"found in temporary pond surrounded by hayfield" or "found in power
line corridor through mature mixed forest". If no term here seems to
fit your case exactly, describe it in your own words.
Lake / Pond shallows or edge
Lake / Pond open water
River / Stream shallows or edge
River / Stream open water
Permanent Farm Pond
Swamp: woody vegetation (trees or
growing in standing water
Marsh: non woody vegetation (cattails, reeds,
sedges, etc.) growing in standing water
(either type may contain lakes, ponds or streams)
Natural Seasonal Ponds (usually present only
in spring; can be in low-lying fields or wooded areas)
Fen: seasonally flooded natural grass or
Oldfield: any pasture or hayfield that has
uncut/unmowed for several years; any
cropland that has been abandoned long
enough to be vegetated.
(classify them as young, mature or old)
Power line Corridor
Recent Clear cut
Urban or Suburban residential area
CONSERVATION STATUS OF OUR HERPETOFAUNA
The conservation status is given for each species in the pocket guide,
with the agency responsible for each ranking. The agencies are:
COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in
Canada) is the national body that evaluates and assigns status rank to
species at risk in Canada. At present only two of our species
(Blanding's Turtle and Wood Turtle) have been ranked by COSEWIC.
NS General Status (Wildlife Division, Nova Scotia Department
of Natural Resources) has evaluated all Nova Scotian vertebrates, and
assigned them to one of three colour ranks (red, yellow, green) after
scoring each in the following categories:
number of occurrences
threats to population
threats to habitat
any species known to be, or believed to be, at risk of
extinction or extirpation. May include COSEWIC ranks of ENDANGERED
any species known to be, or believed to be, particularly
sensitive to human activities or natural events. May include the
COSEWIC rank of VULNERABLE.
any species known to be, or believed to be, not at
risk from human activities or natural events.
Please mail cards, and direct any comments, suggestions or questions
regarding the Nova Scotia Herp Atlas to:
NS Herp Atlas Project
c/o Biology Department,
Wolfville, Nova Scotia
NS Herp Atlas Project
c/o NS Museum of Natural History
1747 Summer St.,
Halifax, Nova Scotia
BY EMAIL or PHONE:
Steering Committee Chair:
There are seven partners contributing in-kind and financial support to
the NS Herp Atlas including:
o Acadia University's Wildlife Museum
o Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre
o Atlantic Cooperative Ecology Research Network at Acadia University
o Center for Wildlife and Conservation Biology at Acadia University
o Federation of Nova Scotia Naturalists
o Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
o Wildlife Division of Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources
Illustrations by Fred Scott and Ron Merrick courtesy of the
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History.