Washington is home to a variety of amphibians (salamanders, frogs, and toads) and reptiles (turtles, lizards, and snakes). The scientific study of these animals is called “herpetology” and the people that study these two groups often refer to them as “herps.” Some “herps” are at risk because their populations are rare, declining, and/or dependent on specific habitat features — the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has identified these species as “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” which includes species that are federal and/or state listed as sensitive, threatened, or endangered, or otherwise indicated as needing conservation attention. Some species are common, having more secure populations.
The main threat to Washington’s amphibians and reptiles is loss, fragmentation, and degradation of habitat from development, agriculture, forestry practices, roads, invasive weeds, and factors related to climate change. Other threats include pollution, diseases, and invasive animal species. Aquatic invasive species are of particular concern, including American bullfrog, African clawed frog, northern green frog, common snapping turtles, spiny soft-shelled turtles, and red-eared sliders (a turtle and subspecies of pond slider). These species eat, compete with, and/or spread diseases to native species.
Please help our native herps! Report your observations of amphibians and reptiles to help us with our understanding of their distribution and status in the state for conservation purposes. Please click on individual species listed on this page for specific guidance.
NOTE: Collection or transport of Washington’s native amphibians and reptiles is permitted only for research and educational activities and requires a WDFW Scientific Collection Permit. Native amphibians and reptiles cannot be kept as pets.
To protect native wildlife, it is unlawful to release captive animals into the wild (WAC 220-450-030). This includes all pet frogs, salamanders, turtles, lizards, and snakes. Check out Don’t Let It Loose to learn why releasing your pet in the wild is never a good thing to do.
Mole salamanders (Family Ambystomatidae)
These are the most widespread and, frequently, the most abundant salamander species encountered in Washington. They do not appear to require special conservation actions at this time.
Giant salamanders (Family Dicamptodontidae)
This salamander occurs in western Washington and Oregon, and is at risk. Main concerns for this species are land uses that contribute to stream sedimentation or elevated stream temperatures.
Lungless salamanders (Family Plethodontidae)
This salamander’s status is of concern in Washington based on the species’ small state range, narrow environmental requirements, a need for retention of large woody debris, and riparian habitats that are not fully protected.
This salamander is common and appears to be well-distributed throughout its historical range in Washington.
This salamander was listed as a Washington state "sensitive" species in 1993 based on their rarity, specific habitat requirements, and need for a comprehensive approach to protect their habitat.
This salamander is at risk due to its limited distribution and apparently small, isolated populations. Its population trend is unknown.
Torrent salamanders (Family Rhyacotritonidae)
This salamander is sensitive to temperature variation and increased sedimentation that may be caused by disturbances, such as logging and road construction.
This salamander’s status is of concern in Washington based on the species’ small global range, narrow environmental requirements, and potentially unprotected headwater habitat.
Newts (Family Salamandridae)
Tailed frogs (Family Ascaphidae)
While this frog is still relatively common and widespread, efforts have been devoted toward understanding and avoiding excessive stream temperature alterations and siltation caused by forestry practices.
True toads (Family Bufonidae)
This toad’s population is unknown in the Puget Sound lowland and in lower Columbia River below the Bonneville Dam; only 19 out of 107 historical sites in these areas that remain, however, the species is locally common elsewhere in Washington.
Treefrogs (Family Hylidae)
Spadefoot toads (Family Pelobatidae)
True frogs (Family Ranidae)
Populations of this species in the Columbia Basin are declining, likely due to habitat loss as well as alteration and other factors, such as fish stocking. This species is aquatic, so drying of ponds and creeks due to agricultural water withdrawals is a threat.
Only one native population of this frog remains in Washington, but WDFW and partners are working together to help recover this species.
This frog is a common species that remains widespread throughout its historical habitat in western Washington, however, declines in British Columbia, Oregon, and California cause concern.
These turtles are rare and declining across their range, with an estimated 40 percent decline in the global population over the past three generations.
Pond turtles (Family Emydidae)
In the 1990s, only two populations of northwestern pond turtle remained in the Columbia River Gorge with estimates of less than 200 individuals. Because of recovery efforts, currently there are six populations with approximately 800 turtles, but many issues remain.
Alligator lizards (Family Anguidae)
Iguanids (Family Iguanidae)
This lizard's status is of concern in Washington based on the species’ rarity and its dependency on sand dunes in the Columbia Basin. Greater than 70 percent of this habitat type has been lost since the 1970s.
This lizard's status is of concern in Washington because the species primarily occurs in shrubsteppe habitat; most of this habitat has been and continues to be converted to other uses or degraded by frequent fires and invasive weeds.
This lizard's status is of concern in Washington based on the small number of populations and a distribution that is restricted to the heavily altered shrubsteppe vegetation of eastern Washington.
Skinks (Family Scincidae)
Boas (Family Boidae)
Colubrids (Family Colubridae)
In Washington, this snake occurs at the northern extreme of its range, and the population is isolated from the rest of its range by approximately 200 miles.
This is one of Washington’s most common snake species. No declines have been reported in the state but declines in amphibian populations could potentially result in declines of this species.
This snake is of conservation concern in Washington based on the small number of documented populations, patchy distribution, and lack of information.
This is a subspecies of striped whipsnake. It is the state’s longest snake and one of its rarest, known only to exist in two areas in Grant County, Washington.
These non-venomous snakes are common and widespread in eastern Washington. The species in western Washington is most likely no longer in existence.
This small snake is found in the Columbia Basin in Washington. It is of conservation concern in the state based on its rarity and because it primarily occurs in shrubsteppe habitat, which is declining.
This snake is of conservation concern in Washington based on the small number of observations, patchy distribution, and lack of information.
This is a wide ranging and common snake species associated with water. No declines have been reported in Washington at this time.
Vipers (Family Viperidae)
Washington Herp Atlas. 2009. A cooperative effort of Washington Natural Heritage Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S.D.I. Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Forest Service. Map products updated March 2017. Provisional PDF version of the website (2005-2019) created July 2019. 250 pp.
WDFW educational resources
- Wild Washington Lesson Plan – Herps in Washington - Elementary school students are introduced to the cold-blooded world of reptiles and amphibians, also known as herps.
- Family Education – Amphibians and Reptiles - Slither, hop, or crawl on over to learn about herpetofauna!
- Living with wildlife – Learn how to attract or avoid conflicts with frogs and snakes