Frogs and Toads in Winter

Frogs and Toads Surviving the Winter

Frogs and toads create winter homes called hibernaculums. While in their retreats, their metabolisms slow down to the bare minimum so they can survive the winter with stored energy only.  There are three main strategies that frogs and toads use to survive freezing winter temperatures:

  • An Underground Shelter – Around here the ground temperature below the frost line is a toasty 55 to 60 degrees.  All the toads and a few frogs spend the winter in an underground burrow where there is no chance that they will freeze.  Their bodily functions slow down considerably, but don’t stop.  Frogs that use this strategy include the Crawfish Frog.
  • A Watery Deep Sleep – Did you know that water density increases as it gets colder – that is, down to a point.  The most dense water occurs at about 39 degrees fahrenheit.  Colder than that water becomes less dense.  So during the winter, the water at the bottom of a pond will be no colder than 39 degrees because the less dense, colder water will not sink as low.  That bottom water is just right for a long winter nap for the aquatic frogs – Bullfrog, Leopard Frog, Pickerel Frog, and Green Frog.  They lay on the bottom (not under the mud) in a state of torpor and absorb oxygen through their skin from the water.
  • Roughing it Topside – Frogs can get out of the wind, but can’t avoid the cold if they stay topside during the winter.  All the tree frogs find crevices in rocks and tree trunks and under leaf piles to stay protected.  They are particularly cold-hardy by shutting down almost completely.  If you found one of them during the winter, you would think they were dead.  Spring Peepers create a kind of internal “anti-freeze” that keeps them from freezing.  Wood Frogs do the same thing and are the only frogs that can survive north of the Arctic Circle.

What can you do to help frogs and toads in the winter?

  • During your Fall yard cleanup, leave a few leaf piles in the corners.  They will not only help over-wintering tree frogs, but lots of other creatures will also appreciate it.
  • If you have a pond on your property or intend to build one, try to make it deep enough so that it doesn’t freeze solid during the winter (18″ or more in the middle).
  • Do a search online for toad houses, abodes, or hibernaculums.  It can be as simple as a two-foot long piece of 4″ plastic pipe sunk into the ground on a 30 degree angle and filled with sand and composted leaves.  The opening should be about 1/2 exposed.

A Boy’s Frog Adventures

A Frog Adventure

A Boy, a Frog, a Toad, and Adventures

The star of the story, when it comes to creatures, A frog to be specific, is usually my son, Gibson. Most often toads  and frogs are found during my time in our home gym. As I am working away the stresses of life, maintaining what’s left of a college sports figure, and practicing what I preach as a Coach.  It is  then that frogs and Gibson unite. Rain or shine this boy finds frog friends and pursues funny business…as defined by an adult. To him it is life and it is life lived to the full wild spirit inside my young boy. And to be sure we give proper credit, his sister Lorelai, is as adventurous in a less wild way and enjoys a more artistic and sentimental adventure with our yard and frogs, even motherly at times.

Story A: Froggy Funny Business on Thursday with Mom and Frank
It was mid spring when he found a medium sized Frog (now called Frank) as he wondered the back yard with a toy truck looking for fun as only a boy can. Frank and Gibson had been in the backyard while I had been working out and running the hill. But I won’t ever forget as I ran up the hill to see Gibson on the trampoline laughing with his hands cupped and his eyes just as big and blue as they are on Christmas. I asked ” what’s happening bud, what’s so funny?” Gibson replied “Mom, I figured if frogs love to hop and jump he and I could play on the trampoline.”  A second latter this frog was placed on its feet right out of the mud covered hands onto the trampoline and Gibson said, “See how high he hops now!” If I was being honest I love God’s creations and I don’t think animals should be abused in any way though I do believe some of them taste great. At this moment I felt so sick and so worried for Frank. I replied ” Gibson, you’ll need to get Frank back on the ground and let him be for a while, your making his world too crazy and too hoppy even for a frog.” And even though my boy disagreed with what was good for Frank’s health at this point, he got him down and placed him carefully in the back of the Tonka truck habitat he had previously made and proceeded to drive Frank all around until we headed upstairs. I never got a thank you from Frank, but he was let loose mid-morning and probably headed to bed with some Dramamine while Gibson went on to live a full Thursday asking here and there if Frank would ever come back. (Upon further discussion, Frank turned out to be an unlucky Dwarf American Toad)
Story B: Froggy Funny Business on Saturday with Mom and Sissy
We had just finished breakfast upstairs and it was about 9 am on Saturday so down to the fort, the trucks, the chalk, the trampoline, the hammock, the gym, and the rope swing we went. Only for there to be the tiniest little frog we have ever laid eyes on and needless to say this little guy instantly became a pet in Gibson and Lorelai’s eyes. And not just any pet but one where they as children negotiated with me rather impressively with such comments as “Mama, he is so tiny we won’t even notice him hopping around the house.” or ” he only needs a large cup with a couple twigs and leaves for a home, we have large cups in the kids drawer.”  and the best one “Mama, he is too cute and little to not have a home.” And so this little frog became a pet for a day, because I was a softy. The frog was not allowed on the trampoline but was allowed on truck rides and taken on walks to the lake in his cup. The frog did get the opportunity to pee on both Gibson and Lorelai, only for them to giggle and say things like “Potty training this frog is harder then Thor was.” Thor is our dog, who is always allowed to be around in and out of home and car. I would ask through the day what this frog’s name was and it had become “Midget Frog,” my kids do not bother with politically correct verbiage. I was thrilled they were getting along  and I cannot blame them because it all seemed fitting to me. As I called them into the dining room for lunch they asked if the frog could come. Again I am soft so I said yes and on that Saturday, we entertained ourselves and Midget Frog at lunch. Latter, when I had finally come to my senses, we released Midget Frog out in the small garden area off our garage. The tears on Lorelai’s and Gibson’s faces were real. And to be honest they had the most fun day with Midget but that Frog was probably glad to get out of the loving grasp of these kids and out of bumpy rides from one fort to the other across our yard.  While my children were sad that they couldn’t keep him, they were again ready for another adventure as they discussed new ways to build a home for a frog while walking into the house for a bed time story.

World Wetlands Day – February 25th

Wood Frog

Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) enjoying an early spring swim.

Saturday, Feb 25th is World Wetlands Day. Wetlands support a wide diversity of life including 43% of rare species. They reduce downstream flooding by storing runoff. They filter sediment and pollutants. They recharge groundwater supplies and provide recreational opportunities. And, of course, frogs and toads love them. Arkansas is blessed with these wetlands – ponds, vernal pools, swamps, non-tidal marshes, ditches, and urban wetlands.


The Incredible Frogs of Borneo

harlequin flying frog

Harlequin Flying Frog – photo by Brad Josephs

Join Brad Josephs for a visual feast of the beautiful frogs of Borneo.  This article includes recordings of some of the frogs and an excellent Youtube that Brad put together.

If you love these little critters, you’ve got to see this wonderful tour.

See the article at:

Save Land and Save Frogs with the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust

by Sim Barrow

It is just after sunset as I make my way through the dense grass and shallow pools at Wilson Springs Preserve in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The thunderstorms from earlier in the day have subsided, and the horizon glows with the remaining light of the day.  With clipboard and pencil in hand, I stop at the edge of an embankment and wait. After a few minutes, the relative quiet is interrupted by a chorus of leopard frogs, American toads and spring peepers.  These are the sounds that drew me to the site, and are the reason for my evening visit to the Preserve.

Frog and toad activity at Wilson Springs Preserve is no small matter for the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust. Protecting wildlife habitat is one of our highest priorities in our work to conserve the natural landscapes of our region.  Whether through conservation easements or by receiving land as a donation, we ensure that those lands will continue to serve as a place for wildlife forever, even as the human population grows.

Of course, seeing the land preserved is just the beginning. With each conserved property we commit to the ongoing stewardship of the land, which includes biomonitoring, or the tracking of native plant and animal species like frogs and toads. The information we gain from biomonitoring is used to inform land management practices like restoration activities and invasive plant removal. It also serves as an indicator of the overall health of the habitat. Because frogs and toads are such great indicator species, it makes sense for the land trust to specifically monitor for them.

For this reason, we are excited to integrate the FrogWatch USA frog monitoring program into our biomonitoring plan.  Citizen-science programs are an excellent way to engage with the community and help people enjoy and appreciate the outdoors. It is also a helpful resource for nonprofits like the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust that have limited staff capacity.  We look forward to recruiting and training new FrogWatch volunteers in 2017 to help us monitor frogs and toads on some of our properties.  It’s also a great opportunity for current volunteers to explore new areas and support local conservation efforts.

Join me and the other NWA Chapter Coordinators this February 25 from 1pm-6pm for the first FrogWatch training workshop of the year. The workshop will be held at the Historic Ozark Mountain Smokehouse (1725 Smokehouse Trail Fayetteville, AR 72701). There will be a special trip to our Wilson Springs Preserve following the workshop, where we will practice the skills taught in the training. We may even hear crawfish frogs making their characteristic “snoring” sound! Contact to register for the training.

With your help, we can all protect habitat for frogs and toads in Northwest Arkansas. Thank you, volunteers, for your commitment to frog and toad conservation!

Northeast Arkansas Frog Watch Update

This just in from the Northeast Arkansas Frog Watch Chapter Coordinator – Ryan Smith, interpreter at Parkin Archeological State Park.

Northeast Arkansas Frog Watch had a successful first year. Two special events were hosted at Parkin Archeological State Park. The first was a volunteer monitoring workshop that was scheduled for January, but was rescheduled for February because of weather. Ten people were in attendance, including a family with a child who got quite proficient in the science of learning frog calls. They were excited and sent an audio recording of a large chorus of Cajun chorus frogs this spring.

Our second event of the year was for Save the Frogs Day. We were able to borrow some live frogs from Dr. Stan Trauth at Arkansas State University. The event was geared toward families with 16 people attending. The children were really excited to see some live frogs up close and sing a “frog chorus.” The event also featured a program on frog adaptations such as “sticky pads” for climbing, jumping ability, and mock frog tongues for catching insects. It is always nice in a program for youth to have something to take home and a “call to action” for them. This was accomplished by making ceramic toad houses they got to paint and set them out to help save frogs themselves.

Ceramic toad houses were also made at an event for preschoolers and at the park’s summer youth craft program Tuesdays at Two. Two other programs were presented on frogs. The first was for a retired teachers group and a senior living center. Older people especially enjoy hearing the songs of the Arkansas outdoors they have heard their entire lives. Both of these events gave Frog Watch USA good publicity.

Park Interpreter Ryan Smith worked closely with Dr. Trauth about documenting Bird-voiced tree frogs in Cross County. They were counted a couple of times in 2015, but unfortunately none were heard in 2016. If any are heard Dr. Trauth is going to send some graduate students to make an official documentation.

The 2017 monitoring season is fast approaching. We are hosting a volunteer monitoring workshop again at Parkin on January 21st. Mississippi River State Park approached us about doing a workshop there this year. One is scheduled for there on February 4th.

2017 Arkansas Frogs and Toads Calendar now available

2017 Arkansas Frogs and Toads CalendarThe 2017 Arkansas Frogs and Toads Calendar is now available for a $10 donation.

  • Excellent images of Arkansas frogs, toads, tadpoles, and egg strings!
  • Each species call and season
  • Information about the citizen science frog monitoring program – FrogWatch USA
  • Phenology chart for all 23 Arkansas frog and toad species
  • Six images and descriptions of Endangered Species (NEW!)
  • Six images and descriptions of Invasive Species (NEW!)

2017 Arkansas Frogs and Toads CalendarWe printed just 200 of these calendars.

When they are gone, they are gone.

For more information and to get your calendar by PayPal or credit card,


Thank you for your support of Arkansas Frogs and Toads!

Doctor Frog is in!

Doctor Frog

Will Doctor Frog cure you someday?

Doctor Frog and his bag of medical wonders may be able to cure your ailment!  Frogs and toads produce chemical cocktails on their skins to deter predators from eating them.  Those unique compounds are being used for many medical applications such as cancer cures and pain killers.  Dr. Jodi Rowley of the Australian Museum Research Institute has written an excellent article about the curative aspects of “Frog Goo” which you can read HERE – Frog goo to the rescue.

Master Gardeners can help Frogs

the buck garden in new jersayAttention Gardeners (Master and otherwise)

Peg and I recently talked to Master Gardeners at the annual state meeting held in Eureka Springs.  All Gardeners can do a lot to help save the Earth’s biodiversity and frogs and toads in particular.  Over 40% of the world’s amphibians are currently at risk of extinction due, in part, to pollution.

Actions Master Gardeners and others can take

  • Plant natives – avoid imported plants which may out-compete local species and become invasive.  In addition, pollinators may be disrupted by the imports.  Native species will thrive with less care than imports.  One invasive to avoid is Bradford Pear Trees.
  • Avoid Chemicals – Pesticides, Herbicides, and chemical Fertilizers all end up washing downstream into rivers and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.  Every year there is a 5,000 square mile dead zone along the shorelines of Louisiana and Texas from gardener’s use of chemicals that wash down the Mississippi River.  Frogs and toads like fresh water environments!  This website has natural alternatives for weed and bug control:
  • Build a Pond – “If you build it, they will come.”  There are lots of good articles on the internet for building a frog pond.  Check out  Frogs and toads will find your pond in short order.  The tadpoles will eat any algae buildup and the adults will eat any mosquito larvae.Toad Houses
  • Place a Toad House –  You can get a fancy one as pictured or just turn over an old terracotta pot and knock out an entrance.  Your toad will stay there during the day and may hibernate there in the winter.  Be sure to place your “toad abode” under some shady foliage and make sure the bottom is open so Mr. Toad can absorb moisture through his stomach in contact with the ground.

Gardeners and Master Gardeners can have a direct impact on whether frogs and toads make it through the current mass extinction by making intelligent choices in their gardening practices.

The Sixth Mass Extinction

The Fifth Mass Extinction happened 65 million years ago.

The Sixth Mass Extinction

There have been five mass extinctions in the last 500 million years – the last one being the Late Cretaceous extinction 65 million years ago that wiped out the dinosaurs.  Most biologists think we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction that could wipe out over half of all existing plant and animal species by 2100.

How can we save Biodiversity?

Many of us understand the magnitude of this problem of biodiversity loss and what it means for us and for the planet.  The question becomes, “What can one person out of seven billion possibly do to make a difference?” Economies of Scale are partly to blame for our predicament – If ten people want beaver hats, there is little impact on nature.  When 100 million people want beaver hats, you have a problem.  It works the other way as well.  If all of us do just a little bit to make a difference, positive changes will happen.

I suggest that we apply a “Conservation Litmus Test” to our daily decisions.  Don’t worry about making decisions that are the “best” for the planet – most of the time those choices are too expensive or time consuming or impractical for a variety of reasons.  Use the Conservation Litmus Test to make a “better” decision.  For example, you are ready to upgrade your gas guzzling vehicle.  The best for the planet might be to ride a bicycle.  If that is possible and practical, then go for it, but in most cases it won’t be.  So you might decide on buying a used Hybrid.  That is a “better” choice than others you can think of, but maybe not the “best” choice for the planet.  Nevertheless, it is one that you can make and therefore make a difference for biodiversity.

Many times the better choice will cost a little extra in time or money – consider that your small contribution to Mother Earth.  The Conservation Litmus Test of “better” choices can be applied to almost every facet of your current habits, and if you multiply those choices times seven billion, we’ll gradually shift the current consumption paradigm to a conservation paradigm and save ourselves and spaceship Earth.

I welcome your comments about how we can take actions to save the planet from ourselves.  Send them to Tom at