Reptiles and Amphibians of Mount Rainier

Here are a few examples of the herps you can find around MT Rainier National Park. Note the tiny tail on the Tailed Frog. That “tail” is actually a mail tool for mating. The small Western Toad jumped right off the trail in front of me and ended up clinging to a tree stump. Cascades Frogs are very common but easy to miss thanks to their coloration. The Puget Sound Garter Snake is just one type that shows up in this area. I am sure there are other frogs and snakes, plus lizards and salamanders, somewhere in the park, but I have not seen them yet. So I’ll keep looking and let you know.

Thousands of people visit and hike in the Mount Rainier National park every year. Mammals and birds are the most common wildlife sightings there. They are the animals most expect to see, and are the ones most advertised in the park documents and stores. Yet there are some other common animals not much noticed or talked about – the herpetological species. Why is that? Well, as I stated before the mammals and birds dominate Mount Rainier documents and photographs. And for serious hikers and beginners the magnificent mountain and cliff sceneries naturally attract attention. Plus, many of the hiking trails are quite rocky and covered with “spaghetti roots” that demand attention for your safety. Yep, I’ve been there and done that many times. But stopping from time to time and letting your eyes focus on the small streams and wooded areas right alongside your trail will often lead to other pleasant wildlife surprises. Garter snakes are everywhere in Washington State and they show up in many unexpected locations around Mount Rainier. You will find them in the lower elevation trails.  At these lower elevations and even ones much higher you also find a lot of amphibians. A couple of thousand feet up I have found Cascades Frogs and the unusual Tailed Frog. According to the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians, Tailed Frogs live in cool mountain habitats, and Cascades Frogs live even above 3,000 feet. My observations align with that, but at an elevation of about 2,000 feet I was surprised to also discover small Western Toads. These toads are normally found at much lower levels. There are of course Bull Frogs to be found and heard in the lower level ponds.

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