Discover the 20 Largest Reptiles Still Living in Canada

Written by Kristina Walsh
Published: October 8, 2023
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With its super cold temperatures, Canada is a tough place to find reptiles. According to The Orianne Society, “winter is an extremely harsh time for reptiles and amphibians in colder climates.” Cold-blooded creatures that live toward the North usually burrow underground during the winter months. This helps keep them warm and their body temperature regulated. You are furthermore the reason you do not find many forms of reptiles in Canada. Considering this, there are roughly 10,000 different reptiles living there. The majority of those are snakes, aka Serpentes. Read on to discover the twenty largest reptiles still living in Canada.

It Is NOT Just Snakes

Yes, snakes are more prevalent. But there are others. Canada has a total of 43 different kinds of reptiles.

Amphibians (Amphibia)

The Lissamphibia group ranges in species of animal. Amphibia is one species found which are four-legged creatures. Canada has lots of different kinds. Toads and salamanders also make up this group.

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1. Canadian Toad (Anaxyrus hemiophrys)

Dakota toad is another name this reptile goes by. A male toad can grow up to 3 inches, weighing about 55 grams.

Canadian Toad (

Anaxyrus hemiophrys

)

©ceasol, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons – License

2. Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus)

Canada’s most giant frog is considered to be the bullfrog. They can grow up to 7 inches big. They need large bodies of water, significantly to help with breeding. Depending on the conditions, Bullfrogs are active from April through September. When the cold winter months hit, they go into hibernation underground underwater.

American bullfrog close up portrait

Bullfrog (

Lithobates catesbeianus

)

©Tau5/Shutterstock.com

3. Northern Red-Legged Frog (Rana aurora)

These frogs can grow between 2-4 inches big. They have a red body and a yellow belly. As a result, this frog is not looking for large, fast-paced bodies of water. They want the water that moves slowly.

Northern red-legged frog (

Rana aurora

)

©Walter Siegmund, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons – License

4. Mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus)

Mudpuppy’s can get up to 16 inches long. By far the most enormous salamander known to Canada. Mostly living underwater, as they age, they can venture out onto land. But they still prefer to stick to the water.

Mudpuppy

A

mudpuppy

is cruising through the water, looking for food at the bottom of a lake in Canada.

©RLS Photo/Shutterstock.com

5. Coastal Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus)

Salamanders can vary in size. There are smaller salamanders, and then there are bigger ones. Typically, a salamander can be anywhere between 1 to 5 inches long. Above all, as salamanders go, in Canada, this one is the biggest. It can grow over 13 inches! In short, Wikipedia says their tail accounts for over 40% of their length. This is the only salamander species with vocal abilities.

Coastal

giant salamander

(

Dicamptodon tenebrosus

).

©Greg Schechter, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Snakes (Serpentes)

Did you know that snakes have amniote vertebrates? Positioned inside a sack and then covered in multiple scales overlapping each other to keep the vertebrates safe.

The Fauna of Canada says there are 25 different species of snakes in Canada. In addition to that, there are about three total families of snakes located in Canada:

  • colubrid (colubridae)
  • boa (Boidae)
  • garter (thamnopis)

To sum up the sizing of snakes, we all know that garter snakes are not a very big snake species. Yet, colubrid’s and boa’s are on the larger end. The larger of the two is Colubrids.

6. Gray Ratsnake (Pantherophis spiloides)

Getting the title of the most giant snake in Canada is because it can reach 100 inches in length. Found in various regions worldwide, it is a threatened species in Canada. We have known since April 1998 that this reptile has been losing its Canadian habitat due to the expansion of civilization. Expansion is a huge problem. The roads that are being built for the town are causing accidents. Snakes are being run over while trying to bask in the sun.

A gray rat snake (full frame) coiled around a brach, with its head resting on a tiny twig that is running diagonally through the frame. The snake is dark gray, thought its face is more mottled with areas of off-white.

Gray ratsnakes have several different markings, with grey being a standard color.

©dkHDvideo/Shutterstock.com

7. Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi)

Even crazier than the ratsnake is the bullsnake. This snake found in Canada can get up to 78 inches in length! These snakes can be very temperamental, having a more aggressive side. You see these snakes in Canada by river beds and in grassy prairies.

The Bullsnake is similar to the Western Rattlesnake. It has black, brown, reddish or white dorsal blotches on a yellow, cream-colored or beige ground.

The bullsnake has black, brown, reddish, or white dorsal blotches on a yellow, cream-colored, or beige ground.

©steve estvanik/Shutterstock.com

8. Eastern Foxsnake  (Pantherophis vulpinus)

Although these snakes can grow up to 65 inches long, most will be much smaller. This snake is usually on the smaller end. The fox snake takes down its prey by wrapping around it and squeezing. It uses strangulation as a result of being non-venomous. It’s bite will not harm you, but it’s muscle strength will.

Juvenile Eastern Fox Snake

Juvenile eastern foxsnakes develop darker, more reddish background color as they mature.

©ML Howard/Shutterstock.com

9. Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)

Canada does not hold a massive group of this species. They prefer to live in dry climates, which is why we find this reptile in the southern borders of British Columbia. On the other hand, what’s crazy is this snake species can grow up to 60 inches. The expansion of civilization and the growth in agriculture have helped decrease the numbers.

Rattlesnake

Western

rattlesnake

(

Crotalus atrox

).

©Steve Mcsweeny/iStock via Getty Images

10. North American Racers (Coluber constrictor)

These snacks come with a mask around their eyes, almost like that of a raccoon. They can reach up to 75 inches in length but usually end up a little smaller than that. They are known to be an incredibly fast snake. The snakes prefer warmer weather, so you will not find a vast population throughout Canada.

Also, check out the southern black racer, a relative of the northern black racer.

close up of Southern black racer with tongue out

A northern black racer found amongst the sun and some greenery.

©TjacksonVii/Shutterstock.com

Turtles (Testudines)

11. Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

Canadian seas are home to this species. This is not a freshwater animal. It is located in the ocean. You can easily distinguish this sea turtle from other sea turtles. First off, you would do this by looking at the shell. The leatherback sea turtle is scale-less and has long bones running down the length of its back. They are hidden under their skin, which is a tightly wrapped leather-like exterior. A regular sea turtle’s shell is covered in scales. These scales make their shell feel hard and sharp in spots. Secondly, this turtle weighs over 1500 pounds and is about 6 feet long. That is spot-able!

Leatherback sea turtle (

Dermochelys coriacea

).

©iStock.com/AGAMI stock

12. Eastern Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

It is not only their size that gets their attention. These turtles are known for their strong bite. They can get about 14-20 inches long and weigh anywhere from 10-40 pounds! That is like the size of a corgi or a miniature poodle. I want to mention that these are freshwater species. It is not an animal to be found in the oceans surrounding Canada, but it is definitely found in the lakes, swamps, and marshes within the continent.

Eastern snapping turtle (

Chelydra serpentina

).

©Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Gatlinburg, TN, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License

13. Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera)

Like the eastern snapping turtle, this turtle can get 7-21 inches long. Unlike any other turtle, the spiny softshell turtle can live in different conditions. With habitats that range in structure and set up, it has no specific living arrangement. Although they prefer shallow water, they have also been found in deeper bodies.

Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera)

Common softshell turtle (

Apalone spinifera

).

©iStock.com/Brian Reinke

14. Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographical)

This turtle is usually found in riverbeds. It is said to be endangered due to the “pet trade,” where people capture them for commercial sale. Or also just for their pet’s gain. These turtles are not fans of the colder climates, usually hibernating during the cold season. This turtle is known to be on the smaller end, getting anywhere from 6-10 inches in length.

Types of pond turtles - Northern Map Turtle

Northern map turtle (

Graptemys geographical

).

©RLS Photo/Shutterstock.com

15. Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)

According to the  International Union for Conservation of Nature, the wood turtle is endangered. This means there are not many left in the world, and we need to protect the ones that are. The reason is habitat loss. Wood turtles are not incredibly large, weighing anywhere from 1-3 pounds and getting as big as 10 inches in length.

Wood Turtle (

Glyptemys insculpta

).

©USFWSmidwest, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Lizards (Lacertilia)

16. Greater Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma hernandesi)

Sometimes referred to as the mountain short-horned lizard, this lizard is often confused with its relative, the pygmy short-horned lizard, but they are different. For starters, the Greater short-horned lizard is more enormous. This lizard can be anywhere between 2-5 inches long, with females being more significant than males, getting as long as 7 inches. This lizard is known to be a mountain dweller enjoying heights of 900–11,300 feet! They can also be found in the plains if a mountainous range is unavailable.

The greater short-horned lizard (Phrynosoma hernandesi), also commonly known as the mountain short-horned lizard, is a species of lizard endemic to western North America; a macro portrait

Greater short-horned lizard (

Phrynosoma hernandesi

).

©Viktor Loki/Shutterstock.com

17. Pygmy Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma douglasii)

A common name for this reptile is “horny toad,” even though it is not an amphibian. It is a reptile and closely related to the greater short-horned lizard. Yet, the pygmy short-horned lizard is relatively tiny, primarily when fully grown. In British Columbia, they had found a minimal population of these lizards the last time they did a count. Therefore, this lizard has been considered extinct in the upper Canadian regions.

Pygmy short-horned lizard (

Phrynosoma douglasii

).

©Walter Siegmund, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons – License

18. Northern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria coerulea)

This is an enormous lizard, getting roughly 10 inches in length from snout to tail. This is another lizard who likes the mountainous range, usually found in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia. This lizard tends to live in a variety of habitats. They can live anywhere from the ground up. During winter, this lizard goes into brumation to help keep itself warm. By doing this, they can preserve their energy and stay warm.

Northern alligator lizard (Elgaria coerulea) sunbathing on a rock.

Northern

alligator

lizard (

Elgaria coerulea

).

©Dana.S/Shutterstock.com

19. Common Five Lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus)

Uncommon to most, the common five-lined skink has teeth. Typically, they are pretty docile creatures. There are teeth in their mouth, though, if you get bit. Not only wooded areas but precisely locations with wood on the ground for them to hide. These lizards can gear anywhere between 5-9 inches long.

Five-lined Skink Lizard on the sand.

A common five-lined skink curled up amongst a sandy patch, looking for somewhere to hide.

©James DeBoer/Shutterstock.com

20. Northern Prairie Skink (Plestiodon septentrionalis)

This smooth lizard can grow up to 8 inches in length. Unlike its counterparts, the common five-lined skink, these lizards like grassy areas. They like to hide under small stones and bask in light soil. They can be anywhere from 5-9 inches in length. Extinction has not hit this species as of yet, but the “Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada ” said they were of “special concern.”

Northern Prairie Skink

(Plestiodon septentrionalis)

.

©Sapphosyne, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Recap: Discover the 20 Largest Reptiles Still Living in Canada

So, I have created a chart to conclude the twenty largest reptiles still living in Canada. Listing Canadian reptiles from most significant to most minor and the class of animal they belong to.

RankReptileSizeClass
1Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)length: 6 feet
weight:1500 pounds
Turtle
2Gray Ratsnake (Pantherophis spiloides)length:100 inchesSnake
3Bullsnake
(Pituophis catenifer sayi)
length: 78 inchesSnake
4North American Racers (Coluber constrictor)length: 75 inchesSnake
5Eastern Foxsnake (Pantherophis vulpinus)
length: 65 inches
Snake
6Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)length: 60 inchesSnake
7Mudpuppy
(Necturus maculosus)
length: 6-16 inchesAmphibian
8Eastern Snapping Turtle (Coluber constrictor)Common Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus)Turtle
9Coastal Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus)length:13 inchesAmphibian
10Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera)length: 7-21 inchesTurtle
11Wood Turtle
(Glyptemys insculpta)
length: 10 inches
weight:1-3 pounds
Turtle
12Northern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria coerulea)length: 10 inchesLizard
13Common Five Lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus)length: 5-9 inchesLizard
14Northern Prairie Skink (Plestiodon septentrionalis)length: 5-9 inchesLizard
15Bullfrog
(Lithobates catesbeianus)
length: 7 inchesAmphibian
16 Greater Short-horned Lizard(Phrynosoma hernandesi)length: 7 inchesLizard
17Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographical)length: 6-10 inchesTurtle
18Pygmy Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma douglasii)length: 6 inchesLizard
19Canadian Toad (Anaxyrus hemiophrys)length: 3 inches
weight: 55 grams
Amphibian
20Northern Red-Legged Frog (Rana aurora)length: 2-4 inchesAmphibian

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Stephanie Rousseau/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

-RandomlyWriting- Has a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Relations and lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband and four children. They are a family that believes in rescue- having adopted 2 dogs and 2 cats. They are also home to a baby Bearded Dragon!

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