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What Is a Wood Frog?

Soo Owens
Soo Owens

The wood frog is an amphibian and member of the Ranidae family of true frogs. Its scientific name is Rana sylvatica. These frogs are widely distributed throughout the Nearctic ecozone, from the Appalachian Mountains in the U.S. state of Georgia to Alaska. A black band stretches across their head, covering both eyes, and is one of their most identifiable features. Reproduction begins in early spring and lasts through most of May.

A terrestrial animal, the wood frog can be found in woodlands, usually near a water source. It can be found as far south as the Appalachian Mountains in Georgia, throughout much of the Northeastern United States, in nearly all of Canada, and most of Alaska. Among all species of amphibians, the wood frog is the only one to have been observed north of the Arctic Circle. Wood frogs hibernate through the winter by burying themselves in the top layer of soil or beneath leaves and are unique in their ability to survive the freezing temperatures of the season.


A wood frog's blood and most of its tissues can freeze without damaging the frog. When spring arrives, if not frozen completely, they will thaw and return to their daily habits. Their average length is 1.4 to 3 inches (3.5 to 7.6 cm), and they usually weigh no more than .28 ounces (7.8 grams). The relatively large discrepancy in length between frogs is due to the larger size of female wood frogs compared to males.

Coloration is usually brown and tan, though grays and greens have also been noted. Males are more colorful than females, but regardless of color or sex, wood frogs can always be distinguished from other frogs by their so-called "robber mask," a black stripe that stretches across both eyes to the ear drums. Dorsolateral ridges run the length of their backs, and males have swollen thumbs. The wood frog's front feet are not fully webbed due to their predominantly terrestrial nature.

During reproduction, males will often find space near water and call to females to initiate mating, though calling is not necessary if a female is already present. Their call sounds similar to a duck quacking. After a male and female have undertaken amplexus, the female will often lay as many as 3,000 individual eggs, in a nearby body of water. Tadpoles undergo complete transformation into adult frogs in the span of two months. In two years they reach sexual maturity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is unique about the wood frog's habitat?

Wood frogs have a remarkable habitat range, extending from the southern Appalachians to the Arctic Circle, showcasing their adaptability. They thrive in moist, wooded areas, often near vernal pools essential for breeding. Their presence across North America, even in the cold north, is a testament to their resilience and unique freeze-tolerance ability.

How do wood frogs survive freezing temperatures?

Wood frogs possess an extraordinary adaptation that allows them to survive freezing temperatures. They produce a natural "antifreeze" in their blood, which prevents ice from forming within their cells. According to research, up to 70% of their body water can freeze during hibernation, effectively putting them in a state of suspended animation until they thaw in the spring.

What does the wood frog eat?

Wood frogs are opportunistic feeders, primarily consuming a diet of insects, spiders, slugs, and worms. Their foraging strategy is to sit and wait for prey to come within reach. During their tadpole stage, they feed on plant matter, which includes decaying leaves and algae, diversifying their diet as they mature into adults.

How do wood frogs reproduce?

Wood frogs have a unique breeding strategy that coincides with the first warm rains of spring, often resulting in a mass migration to breeding sites. They lay their eggs in temporary pools formed by melting snow and spring rains, known as vernal pools. These pools provide a predator-free environment for their eggs and tadpoles to develop.

What are the main threats to wood frogs?

Wood frogs face several threats, including habitat loss due to development, pollution, and climate change. The alteration of wetlands and forested areas disrupts their breeding and hibernation sites. Additionally, climate change may affect the timing of snowmelt and the availability of vernal pools, which are crucial for their reproductive cycle.

Can wood frogs be found in urban areas?

Yes, wood frogs can sometimes be found in urban areas, particularly in parks and natural reserves that mimic their natural habitat. They are adaptable and may utilize stormwater ponds or temporary pools for breeding. However, urban environments can pose challenges such as pollution and habitat fragmentation, which can impact their populations.

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