Are Tree Frogs Poisonous?

Tree frogs are some of the most alluring and visually appealing creatures on the planet, flaunting a wide range of physical traits and characteristics. But, some species are far more dangerous than they may seem, leaving many amphibian enthusiasts to wonder if interacting with any kind of tree frog can pose risks for human safety. 

Not all tree frogs are poisonous and their level of toxicity depends on the species. Spring Peeper are not poisonous, yet Poison Dart frogs can be fatal. All tree frogs can cause illnesses if their secretions are ingested since their skin can carry viral and bacterial diseases including salmonella.

All frogs should ideally be appreciated from a distance for safety since this is best for the frogs and for us. Let’s have a look at common tree frog species you can find around the world and if they are poisonous or not.

Which Tree Frogs Are Poisonous?

Very few tree frog species are poisonous in the United States and only Cope’s Grey Tree Frog and Cuban Tree Frogs may cause sinus irritations if their secretions enter the skin, eyes, nose, or mouth. Most fatally toxic tree frog species are located in South America.

Here are some common tree frogs, their locations, and if they are poisonous:

PoisonousPoisonousMain Location
Cope’s Gray TreefrogYesNorth America
Cuban Tree FrogYesFlorida
Poison Dart FrogsYesSouth America
Spring PeeperNoEastern North America
Gray Tree FrogNoEastern North America
Pacific Tree FrogNoWestern North America
Squirrel Tree FrogNoSouthern North America
American Green Tree FrogNoSouthern North America
Barking Tree FrogNoSouthern North America
Red-Eyed Tree FrogsNoSouth America
Australian Tree FrogNoAustralia
White Tree FrogNoAustralia
Australasian Tree FrogsNoAustralia

Tree frogs are diverse in appearance, characteristics, and behavior, and the group consists of hundreds of known tree frog species. Only about 30 of these tree frogs live in the United States, while the vast majority live in South and Central America. 

All tree frogs are classified by their distinct feet and toe pads that help them climb. Tree frogs are classified due to these traits since not all tree frogs live in trees. Some prefer to live on the forest floor.

Not all tree frog species are poisonous to humans from this extensive group, and most tree frogs can be handled with little to no concern for human safety. But, there are still many risks to consider, and interaction with some tree frogs can cause death.

Tree Frogs May Carry Salmonella

All frogs, including tree frogs, can carry viral or bacterial diseases including salmonella. Although a salmonella infection or irritation may not be classified as poisoning, it is still a threat to consider when handling tree frogs.

Contracting salmonella can be problematic to anyone but is especially dangerous for children under the age of five years old and individuals who have a weakened immune system. It can cause a wide range of side effects, including the following fever, stomach aches, diarrhea, and in extreme cases, death.

While all tree frogs can cause a viral or bacterial infection if their secretions are ingested or enter the sinuses, only a few species can cause severe poisoning and even death in humans, depending on the species and toxicity level. This is especially true for Poison Dart Frogs.

Poison Dart Frogs Can Be Lethal

Ingesting Poison Dart Frog toxin in the wild can lead to pain, sickness, fever, seizures, paralysis, severe illness, and even death. These frogs are generally not as poisonous in captivity due to their diet.

There are approximately 100 different Poison Dart Frog species, most of which live in South America. These frog species secrete toxic substances that can either cause severe reactions or fatality. 

You can be poisoned by directly handling these species or if their secretions enter the bloodstream or sinuses. Animals may be poisoned by touching, licking, biting, or eating these frogs. This is one of the reasons why Poison Dart Frogs have so few predators, their worst predators being their own species.

What Makes Frogs Poisonous?

In nature, Poison Dart Frogs’ food is generally composed of alkaloid-containing ants that help the frogs that eat them secrete toxic chemicals. As a frog digests its meal, the toxins are absorbed by its body making them poisonous to the touch.

Research suggests that in captivity, some of the most endangered frogs can be kept as pets, as they are usually fed crickets or fruit flies that do not contain alkaloids and in turn do not make them poisonous. The age-old adage of “you are what you eat” could not be truer for these amphibious creatures.  

The alkaloid toxin that makes these frogs the most poisonous, batrachotoxin, is only found in frogs that consume alkaloid-containing insects, and so most frogs that are kept in captivity are not poisonous unless they are fed these kinds of foods (CTNF).

How To Tell If A Tree Frog Is Poisonous?

Most highly toxic and poisonous tree frogs are located in South America and are bright primary colors including red, blue, and yellow. Poisonous tree frogs can be identified by their color and location as Cope’s Grey Tree Frog and the Cuban Tree Frog cause mild reactions and are both grey..

While it’s great to know about specific poisonous tree frog species, identifying them in the wild can often be tricky. Many species have varying patterns, colors, and other visual traits within the same species, and some frog species can easily be confused with others. The best approach is to understand how to spot a poisonous tree frog in the wild. 

Location

Unless you live in South America, there are low chances you will encounter a highly toxic tree frog. Only Copes’ Grey Tree Frog and the Cuban Tree Frog can cause mild reactions in humans if their toxins are ingested in North America. So there is not much to worry about when it comes to wild tree frogs in most of North America.

Appearance

Tree frogs are generally small, regardless of whether or not they are poisonous. Poisonous tree frogs typically have bright colors or patterns, which is generally used to deter predators by warning them of the frog species’ toxicity. The most common colors include shades of red, yellow or blue, but they can boast other bright colors as well. 

Smell

It may be challenging to smell a tree frog from a safe distance, but it might be possible depending on the environment and species. Poisonous tree frogs produce enough toxic secretions to coat the entire body, and these secretions generally have quite an unpleasant odor. This unwelcoming odor is also used as part of their defensive mechanism in the wild.

How To Avoid Tree Frog Poisoning?

The best way to avoid being poisoned by a tree frog is to avoid touching them. Observing a tree frog from a safe distance in a safe place has very little risk and can be a great way to enjoy their presence in the wild without risking getting sick.

Although tree frogs may cause toxicity-related sickness in humans and animals, their incredibly sensitive skin and overall wellbeing need to be considered as well. Their skin is permeable for breathing, drinking, and many other bodily functions, meaning that they are extremely vulnerable to interactions with other animals and human touch. 

While handling a tree frog may cause poisoning, it also risks harming the frog through injury, the passing of bacteria, and much more. It is always best to observe frogs from a distance and accompany an experienced guide when searching for these species. If interactions are permitted, always wash your hands and wear gloves when handling frogs. Keep a first aid kit handy just in case. 

More About Tree Frogs

Tree frogs are not an immediate danger to humans or other animals, especially if you live in North America. Tree frogs are generally quite peaceful and passive creatures. Having toxic skin is the easiest way for these little innocent animals to defend themselves, and it’s best to avoid handling all tree frogs for everyone’s safety. 

Learn more about tree frogs on our site:

Common Questions About Tree Frogs

Are tree frogs poisonous to humans? Not all tree frogs are poisonous and their level of toxicity depends on the species. Spring Peeper are not poisonous, yet Poison Dart frogs can be fatal. All tree frogs can cause illnesses if their secretions are ingested since their skin can carry viral and bacterial diseases including salmonella.

Are tree frogs poisonous to touch? Not all tree frogs are poisonous to touch and the most poisonous tree frog species when touched are located in South America. Most tree frogs can be safely handled wearing gloves in North America since all frogs can carry viral and bacterial diseases.

Can a tree frog kill you? Not all tree frogs can kill you if their poison is ingested, and the most dangerous tree frogs are located in South America. Most tree frogs can be safely handled wearing gloves in North America since all frogs can carry viral and bacterial diseases.Can you get sick from touching a tree frog? You can get sick from touching a tree frog if the secretions on their skin enter your bloodstream since all frogs can carry bacterial or viral diseases including salmonella.