Reptiles and Amphibians

Stinkpot | Snapping Turtle | Eastern Mud Turtle | Eastern Box Turtle
Eastern Painted Turtle | Brown Water Snake | Garter Snakes | Southern Copperhead
Northern Black Racer | Green Frog | Bullfrog | Green Treefrog | Gray Treefrog
Spring Peeper | Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad | Eastern Red Spotted Newt

Stinkpot – (Sternotherus odoratus)
The stinkpot is a musk turtle, named for the foul smelling, yellowish fluid they secrete when alarmed. They are small turtles, measuring less than 4 inches long. Musk turtles eat fish, worms, and other live aquatic food. They bask in the sun at the water’s surface or climb up on rocks or trees to warm their blood.

Snapping Turtle – (Chelydra serpentina)

Snapping turtles can be found throughout the United States from the Rocky Mountains eastward and are common in lakes and streams. Snapping turtles cannot pull back completely into their shells as other turtles do because their bodies are too large; their powerful jaws are their defense against predators. They are omnivorous and eat plants, fish, insects, reptiles, mammals and birds. Snapping turtles often eat ducklings, catching them from below the water. These large turtles can reach 20 inches in length and can be seen near the water’s edge sunning themselves or looking for a good spot to lay their eggs.

Eastern Mud Turtle – (Kinosternon subrubrum)
Mud turtles are similar in size and appearance to musk turtles, except from underneath. Their lower shell is distinctively different with two hinges as opposed to one on the musk turtle. As with all the turtles seen in the nature preserve, they will move to the stream to survive when the pond dries up, returning with the rains.

Eastern Box Turtle – (Terrapene carolina)

These turtles live primarily on land and can often be seen on the trails of the nature preserve. They will close up their shells completely when approached or picked up. They have a high domed shell (carapace) usually with yellow or orange markings. In dry, hot weather, they will find a damp place under a rotting log to stay cool. Box turtles live 30 to 40 years, sometimes more. They eat plant material, insects, and worms.

Eastern Painted Turtle – (Chrysemys picta)
The Eastern painted turtle ranges from Nova Scotia south into Georgia and is from 4.5 to 6 inches long. They typically have 2 bright yellow spots on each side of the head and can be seen floating on the surface of the nature preserve pond or sunning themselves on the shore. They eat aquatic vegetation, crayfish, and mollusks.

Brown Water Snake – (Nerodia taxispilota)
Brown water snakes can reach 60 inches in length and are often mistaken for the Cottonmouth because of similar coloration. They are most often seen in lakes and swamps where they hunt for fish, frogs, and crayfish but they also climb trees. Water snakes have been seen in the nature preserve pond, often in pairs and usually in summer. As with most non-venomous snakes, the brown water snake lays eggs in soft sandy soil and the young hatch and leave the nest with no adult care.

Garter Snakes – (Thamnophis sirtalis)
Garter snakes are common but not always easily identified because of the wide variation of coloration and markings. Garter snakes usually have stripes along the length of the body but the number and coloring of the stripes varies with individuals. They emit musk from glands when captured and give off an unpleasant odor. They are generally harmless but will bite in self defense. Garter snakes eat frogs, tadpoles, fish, and salamanders.

Southern Copperhead – (Agkistrodon contortrix)
Belonging to the family of pit vipers, the copperhead has a pit on each side of its head that contains a sensory organ that aids in striking its target when alarmed or hunting prey. Like other pit vipers including rattlesnakes and cottonmouths, copperheads are poisonous. However, they are not usually dangerous to humans or other animals that are much larger than them and will only strike when cornered or attacked. Snakes are beneficial to humans because they eat mice and rats along with small birds, lizards, and insects. Copperheads and other poisonous snakes give birth to live young. They often nest in wood chip piles or other rotting vegetation where it is warm and protected.

Northern Black Racer – (Coluber constrictor)
Up to five feet in length, the Northern black racer is slender and plain black above and below. These snakes move quickly and are hard to catch. They eat rodents, small birds, frogs, insects, and other snakes. A northern black racer has been seen often on the Beaver Pond Trail between the bridge and the outdoor classroom as it hunts for prey near the wetlands.

Green Frog – (Lithobates clamitans)
The green frog is 2 to 4 inches long and may actually be more brown than green. Their range covers the entire eastern United States and into Canada. Look for the ridges (dorsolateral) along each side ending at the back. Frogs are easily distinguished by their mating calls, which can be heard in the nature preserve from March through August, particularly at dawn and dusk. The males call to attract the females. Eggs are laid in the water in clusters, the tadpoles hatching in a few weeks. Tadpoles mature to adult frogs at varying rates; some in a few weeks, others like the bullfrog may take years to mature. If the ponds in which the tadpoles live dry up, they burrow into the mud and can survive for months as long as some moisture remains.

Bullfrog – (Lithobates catesbeiana)
At up to 8 inches long, the bullfrog is North America’s largest frog. Bullfrogs eat other frogs, fish, and insects. Their loud, booming calls can be heard above all others in the spring.

Green Treefrog – (Hyla cinerea)
The green treefrog is 1.25 to 2.5 inches long and is typically green with long yellowish stripes along the sides. They live in trees close to ponds and their eggs are laid in water. Found primarily in the southeast and the coastal plain up to Delaware, the green treefrog is somewhat rare in the Atlanta area.

Gray Treefrog – (Hyla versicolor)
More common than the green treefrog, the gray treefrog is found all throughout the eastern United States. It is 1.25 to 2.25 inches long and is typically gray with greenish patches on its back and sides. As with the green treefrog, it lives in low bushes or trees along waterways and feeds on insects.

Spring Peeper – (Pseudacris crucifer)
One of our smallest frogs, the spring peeper is .75 to 1.25 inches long and ranges from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico in the eastern US. The distinctive call of the peepers is one of the first signs of spring. In the nature preserve, the spring peepers can be heard calling from the juncus grass in the pond but are extremely difficult to find. They feed on insects and lay their eggs in small patches floating on the water.

Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad – (Gastrophryne carolinensis)
This small toad (1 to 1.5 inch) has a relatively small head in comparison to its body. They are generally found in moist areas in leaf litter and rotting logs. The call of the eastern narrow-mouthed toad has been compared to a bleating lamb and is heard often at the nature preserve. These toads mate between April and October. Their diet consists mainly of insects.

Eastern Red Spotted Newt – (Notophthalmus viridescens)


A small salamander that lives on land in the juvenile (or eft) and adult stages.  The efts are bright red, which is a warning to predators that they are toxic.  The adults are a dull yellow color with bright red spots.  The adults return to ponds to breed and lay eggs.  The larval stage develops in the pond much like a tadpole.  After metamorphosis, they emerge onto land in the eft stage.  Newts have been found in the small amphibian pond near the entrance to the Preserve.


For recordings of Frog and Toad Calls click here.