Save Our Frogs!

Northern Leopard Frog

We hear them calling at night. They live in our ponds, streams, marshes and backyards. We keep them as pets. Yet we take for granted that frogs and toads will always be around. Today is Save the Frogs Day, a day to celebrate our amphibious friends and raise awareness about their plight.

Around the world frog populations are declining in large part due to human activity. This is very significant – the health of frog populations has long been regarded as a strong indicator of how healthy our wild ecosystems are. Frogs have semi-permeable skin, making them very sensitive to environmental change and excellent “indicator species”. Of the approximately 6000 known amphibian species, it is estimated that 1/3 are at risk of extinction. The main threats to these beautiful creatures are habitat loss and destruction, chemical pollutants in waterways, invasive species, and disease.

Here is a small look at just a few of Canada’s noteworthy frog species:

Blanchard’s Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans blanchardi) – These greenish-brown, red, black or yellow-coloured treefrogs reach a maximum size of 4 centimetres, and can be found in Ontario. They live in marshes, drainage trenches and quarries. Feeding on small insects, these frogs on average live only 1 to 2 years. Pesticide contamination and habitat destruction are the main causes of population decline. Blanchard’s Cricket frog is listed as endangered by the Ontario and Federal Governments.

Great Basin Spadefoot (Spea intermontanus) – This British Columbian species can be found in vernal ponds, semi-permanent alkali lakes, and in arid areas near breeding sites. At 5 centimetres, the frog gets its name from a sharp-edged, horny tubercle on the inside of its hind foot, which is wedge-shaped. Their skin is quite smooth, and they have teeth in their upper jaw. It appears that populations have declined in BC due to threats from recreational vehicles and habitat destruction by cattle.

Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) – Even if you’re not familiar with the Spring Peeper, you’ve probably heard its unique repetitive chirping call each spring, which can carry over half a kilometre in range. At 3 centimetres, this frog has a wide range in Canada, and has been found from Manitoba to Prince Edward Island, and even in Florida. One female can lay 800 to 1000 eggs with tadpoles hatching in 6 to 12 days. Even though it is considered relatively stable in most of its habitat, the Toronto area populations have disappeared.

Western (Striped) Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata) – This greenish-grey coloured treefrog can be identified by the 3 dark stripes along its back, and reaches an adult size of only 4 centimetres. This frog is only found in a small part of Canada – in Southern Ontario and along the Ottawa and upper St. Lawrence rivers in Québec.

Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens) – With its unique large, light-edged spots adorning its green or brown coloured-body, the Leopard frog can be spotted very easily. It can be found in every province and territory except for the Yukon, and can also be found in the northwestern United States. But the Northern Leopard Frog is found only in Canada. A single female can lay up to 7000 eggs, and the average lifespan for an adult in the wild is 3 to 4 years. The male Leopard frog call sounds like a low-pitched snore quickly followed by low grunts. Although very widespread, there is strong evidence that Western Canadian populations are declining, due to habitat loss and long-term drought.

So, what can be done to help our amphibious neighbours? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Nature Canada’s FrogWatch program is a great way to get to know common frog species and contribute to citizen science. FrogWatch provides tips for identifying frogs by sight and sound and encourages people to collect information on frog species and submit that data to help scientists get a better understanding of frog populations across the country.
  • Learn about the main threats to frog species living near you and learn how to prevent further damage to our natural ecosystems. Dumping chemicals into our waterways, or releasing non-native species of mammal, fish, amphibian or bird into the wild are two of the biggest threats to Canadian amphibians.
  • Take a look at the Save the Frogs Day website to learn about the global initiative to protect, save and educate ourselves about frog and toad species facing extinction.
  • Never purchase wild frogs, toads or other amphibians from pet stores or breeders as this greatly affects native wild populations.

Nature Canada would like to thank Michael Berrigan for contributing this blog post.