Search Tips for Finding Herps


Although you might stumble upon a turtle at any time of the year, the best time to look for most of them is in the spring as they bask on logs or along the shore of lakes, rivers, ponds, and marshes. In spring the water is still cold and on sunny days turtles bask to raise their body temperatures. An added bonus at this time of year is that much of the annual vegetation has not yet started growing, leaving the turtles much more exposed, visible, and easier to identify. You will probably need binoculars to see them well enough to make an identification.

In the late spring and early summer, female turtles are often seen on land while traveling to and from egg-laying sites. When attempting to identify a particular species, note at least three different field markings.

Snakes & Lizards

Snakes bask most often in the spring and fall to raise their body temperatures. It is during these two time periods that they are easiest to locate. During the summer you often have to look under rocks and logs or in the shade to find them. May is the month that many snake species first become active. They can often be found basking in open areas (roads, rock ledges, lawns, etc.) particularly on sunny mornings after a cold night. In the fall many young snakes have been added to the population so this increases your chances of finding one. In late September or early October search along small roads that travel between swamps, marshes, and overgrown fields and wooded hillsides. You can often find snakes as they stop to bask in the roads on their way to a denning site.

Frogs and Salamanders

All amphibians need to stay moist. The best time to find them is during or immediately after a hard rain. Searching along roads at any time of the year during or after a heavy rain should locate a few species. In the spring many species of frog and salamander migrate to nearby ponds and vernal pools to breed. At this time of year they can often be found in and around small ponds at night with a flashlight. Frogs are easier to locate if you learn their calls. On almost any warm evening between April and July some species of frog will be calling. During summer days you will need to look for them in their moist hiding places. Many salamander species can be found under stones and logs or under the bark of logs and dead trees that hold some moisture. Some frogs stay close to water during summer days to retain their moisture. Search the edges of ponds, streams, and marshes to locate them at this time of year.


Don't disturb any reptile or amphibian any more than is necessary. If you need to handle them, do so gently. Keep in mind that amphibians need to stay moist and that both reptiles and amphibians can overheat easily. Once you have identified them, return them to exactly where you found them. If they were under a piece of cover, return the cover to its place first, then place the animal next to it. This way you will avoid the chance of injuring the animals.