Habitat Feature: Shelter for Reptiles and Amphibians

Photo © Ohio Sea Grant

Creating and conserving habitat for amphibians and reptiles is important. These secretive animals are not easy to find since they are often buried under soil or other yard debris. Amphibians and reptiles, by feeding on insects and small mammals, are often overlooked, but are an important part of many food chains, they are excellent eco-indicators–their presence or absence can reveal the environmental health of an area.open_in_new Spotting them in your backyard is often considered a positive indicator that you are creating healthy habitat.

Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)

Photo © John Clare

According to the the World Conservation Union, which monitors the status of organisms all over the world, 41% of amphibians are threatened with extinction. There is less data about reptiles, but preliminary evidence suggests that their populations are in decline as well.

So, how can we provide shelter for these animals? Cover boards.
Scientists have been using cover boards for years to attract and monitor amphibians and reptiles for research. Amphibians and reptiles often rest, hunt, and maintain proper moisture and temperature levels by hiding in or under fallen logs or large rocks. But, if you lack large logs or rocks, cover boards are an effective, affordable, and easy way to encourage amphibians and reptiles into your yard. Cover boards can be added to almost any kind of site. Installing a cover board creates a unique microhabitat that may otherwise be missing.

Southeastern Five-lined Skink (Eumeces [Plestiodon] inexpectatus)

Photo © Vicki DeLoach

Remember to never handle reptiles and amphibians unless you are confident in the species and their ecology. Many amphibians’ permeable skins are sensitive to the oils on your hand and handling them can clog their pores or be poisonous to their system. Admiring them from afar is your best bet at keeping them and you safe.

Add a cover board to your Map


Photo ©

1. Sign into Habitat Network and navigate to your map via the Site Explorer. To add a cover board to your map, use the Tool Shed’s third step to add an object.
2. The objects bar will appear in the mapping area, scroll through the list of objects until you find “cover board.”
3. Click on the image of a cover board and place it on the map where the cover board is located. The vertices that appear allow you to size the image to represent the size of the cover board.
4. After you have added a cover board to your map, tell us about it. Use the “Info” button in the site overview panel to tell us about the cover board.


Photo ©

5. Once you are inside the info window, the panel on the left will help you navigate through the data entering process. The Basic Information and Characteristics tab allow you to enter and answer important questions regarding the cover board. By entering and answering these questions you are providing important data for scientist to use.

Log in with your Cornell Citizen Science Username and Password to leave a comment or ask a question

(This is the same username you use to sign-in to eBird, the Habitat Network, Celebrate Urban Birds, FeederWatch, NestWatch, Maccaulay Library)