Frogs in the Grass

When I think about frogs in the prairie, I usually think of leopard frogs – aka “grass frogs”.  It’s not unusual to see one leaping ahead of me as I walk through our Platte River Prairies, even when I’m not particularly near water.  But during the last couple of years, I’ve been seeing chorus frogs quite a ways from tadpole-rearing sites as well.  A couple weeks ago, I caught one in our yard (middle of town).  After taking a quick trip to school with my son, she’s back in the yard somewhere.  I hope she can find a nice pond by next spring…

Early last summer, I was hiking in Griffith Prairie (Prairie Plains Resource Institute) north of town and came across a chorus frog near the top of a high dry hill.  The closest pond was a few hills away – a long way for a tiny frog to travel through the tall grass.  I had my camera along, so I spent some time photographing the frog, which put up with me very nicely.  Eventually, it jumped and got hung up – temporarily – in some grass, where it kindly stayed long enough for me to get a photo.

A chorus frog on a hilltop at Griffith Prairie (Prairie Plains Resource Institute). My 10-year-old son, who researched chorus frogs after we found the one in our yard, tells me this is a female because there's no dark patch on the throat.

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It's hard not to project human thoughts onto the frog in this photo, isn't it? ("How did I get myself into this mess??")

As far as I know, chorus frogs spend their winter nestled down under grass thatch and/or logs and probably freeze solid when the temperature drops sufficiently.  I’ve had a hard time confirming this, so would love to hear from anyone who has good information.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is an ecologist and Eastern Nebraska Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. He supervises the management and restoration of approximately 4,000 acres of land in central and eastern Nebraska - primarily along the central Platte River. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press.
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6 Responses to Frogs in the Grass

  1. Cyndi Trail says:

    I don’t know for sure whether chorus frogs freeze solid in the winter, though I wouldn’t be surprised. Woodhouse’s toads, which are local, and mink frogs, which aren’t, both freeze solid.

  2. JK says:

    There was a NOVA special a few years back on Wood Frogs, Rana sylvatica, freezing in the Canadian Winter: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/frozen-frogs.html

    I have read the same is true for Cope’s treefrogs and Gray treefrogs and possibly the Boreal Chorus frog, Pseudacris maculata, but not sure about your chorus frog. I will have to dig deeper for peer reviewed articles on this group, but this research group may be a place to start or someone to ask: http://www.units.muohio.edu/cryolab/

  3. Great photography Chris. I am not sure whether the frogs freeze solid or not myself. I recently was in Arizona and photographed some amphibians myself and while I am typically a reptile person I must say the Arizona has me now wanting to learn more about amphibians as whole. They are truly fascinating creatures.

  4. Karen Hamburger says:

    Hey Chris
    I regularly see this kind of critter in my back yard and he/she is what I know as a “tree frog'”. I have listened to their song(the sure fired way to identify them) and it is one of the native tree frog family in Nebraska.
    not sure which one …but that is my expereance.
    Hope that helps.
    Karen

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Karen – you’re right that the chorus frog is in the Hylidae family (tree frogs) but it’s in a different genus than the “true” tree frog we have in Nebraska – the western gray tree frog. You and I live on the far western extent of the gray tree frog’s range. I’ve never seen one out this far, but the range maps say it’s possible. I thought I heard one the other night, but it was just an American toad (not that toads are a bad thing…!)

    • Ice says:

      The accident of finding this post has brigtheend my day

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