Reptiles and Amphibians

Dr. James Barron, Herpetologist

Montana State University – Billings

Gophersnake (Bullsnake) <i>Pituophis catenifer </i>, (photo by Jim Barron) Gophersnake (Bullsnake) Pituophis catenifer , (photo by Jim Barron)
According to Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, there are 15 species of amphibians and reptiles whose ranges include the Pryor Mountains. Additionally, seven other species “may” occur in the Pryor ecosystem, for a total of 22 potential different amphibians and reptiles. However, as of early 2011, only twelve species have actually been recorded from the Pryors.

For this discussion, the Pryor ecosystem is defined to include the geologically uplifted area of the mountains and a surrounding band of ecologically connected lower elevation desert and prairie. Approximate boundaries include RT 310 to the west, the MT/WY state line to the south, Bighorn Canyon to the east, and a line from Edgar to Fort Smith (approximating the E. Pryor/Edgar road) to the north.

Greater Short-horned Lizard <i>Phrynosoma hernandesi</i>, (photo by Jim Barron) Greater Short-horned Lizard Phrynosoma hernandesi, (photo by Jim Barron)
The recorded species include one salamander (the Tiger Salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum), four anurans (the Plains Spadefoot, Spea bombifrons; the Boreal Chorus Frog, Pseudacris maculate; Woodhouse’s Toad, Bufo (Anaxyrus) woodhousii; and the Northern Leopard Frog, Rana (Lithobates) pipiens ), two lizards (the Greater Short-horned Lizard, Phrynosoma hernandesi; and the Common Sagebrush Lizard, Sceloporus graciosus) and five snakes (the Terrestrial Gartersnake, Thamnophis elegans; the Western Rattlesnake, Crotalus viridis; the Eastern Racer, Coluber constrictor; the Milksnake, Lampropeltis triangulum; and the Gophersnake (Bullsnake), Pituophis catenifer).

For each species either known from or potentially in the Pryors ecosystem, a link to the Montana Natural Heritage Program Field Guide page for that species is included. On those pages can be found photos, habitat and range maps, and descriptions of the ecology of each species.

On the lists below are those species of amphibians and reptiles KNOWN to be in the Pryor ecosystem, and those that MIGHT be present, but that have not been definitively recorded as present

Western Rattlesnake <i>Crotalus viridis</i>, (photo by Jim Barron) Western Rattlesnake Crotalus viridis, (photo by Jim Barron)

Some of these are almost certainly in the Pryor Mountains – many have been collected either from the flats just to the west of the mountains proper. Many of these species will most likely be found near permanent water sources and at lower elevations. Night surveys for breeding frogs in late spring and early summer may be fruitful, and flipping rocks on south and east facing hillsides may help find some of the snakes.

Some of the listed species are probably NOT present in the ecosystem (e.g. snapping turtle, softshell turtle) because the appropriate habitats (in these cases, slow meandering streams) are not present.

I am unaware of any rigorous scientific surveys done in the Pryors. They have been overlooked from a biodiversity standpoint, and need to be studied because of their unique geological history and ecological positioning.

Common Sagebrush Lizard <i>Sceloporus graciosus</i> (male), (photo by Radd Icenoggle) Common Sagebrush Lizard Sceloporus graciosus (male), (photo by Radd Icenoggle)

Species List (Known)


Barred Tiger Salamander Ambystoma tigrinum
Plains Spadefoot Spea bombifrons
Boreal Chorus Frog Pseudacris maculate
Woodhouse’s Toad Anaxyrus woodhousii
Northern Leopard Frog Lithobates pipiens

Greater Shorthorned Lizard Phrynosoma hernandesi
To see Billings Gazette article about Jim Barron’s research on shorthorned lizards near the Pryors click here.
Common Sagebrush Lizard Sceloporus graciosus
Terrestrial Gartersnake Thamnophis elegans
Western Rattlesnake Crotalus viridis
Eastern Racer Coluber constrictor
(range in Pryors. This snake is almost certainly present in the Pryors – at least at lower elevations. Though not yet on the Montana Field Guide website, a specimen was collected in the Pryor ecosystem in 2010 and specimens have been found between the Pryor Mountains and RT 310 east of Bridger. )
Milk Snake Lampropeltis triangulum
Gophersnake (Bullsnake) Pituophis catenifer
Rubber Boa Charina bottae This snake is often found in mountainous habitats, and it has been recorded east of the Pryors in eastern Bighorn Co. It has now been found in the Pryor Mountains.

Species List (Possible, but not found yet)

Western Toad Anaxyrus boreas
(range west of Pryors, across Clark Fork valley. Could be present in Pryors)
Great Plains Toad Anaxyrus cognatus
(range in Pryors, no records. Because this is a toad of the prairies, it may not be present in the mountains.)
Columbia Spotted Frog Lithobates luteiventris
(range west of Pryors across Clark’s Fork valley. One specimen found near Billings – certainly “could” be in Pryor Mountains.)

Western Hognosed Snake Heterodon nasicus
(range includes Pryors,– no records. This snake may well be in the Pryor Mountains, especially at low elevations in valleys.)
Common Gartersnake Thamnophis sirtalis
(range in Pryors – no records. Almost certainly present in the Pryor Mountains, near streams and at lower elevations.)
Plains Gartersnake Thamnophis radix
(range east of Pryors. A snake of the prairies, it is unlikely to be in the Pryors, but it is possible at lower elevations.)
Painted Turtle Chrysemys picta
(range in Pryors – no records. Almost certainly present if suitable habitat exists – i.e. permanent water in ponds or sloughs.)
Snapping Turtle Chelydra serpentine
(range east of Pryors – unlikely)
Spiny Softshell Turtle Apalone spinifera
(range around Pryors – unlikely)