Northern Leopard Frogs

Leopard Frogs are native to Canada and the United States and are generally green with brown patches on their bodies similar to leopards. They are relatively large frogs often hunted for their leg meat with an adult size typically around 10 cm in length and 25 to 40 grams in weight.

Common Name Northern Leopard Frogs
Other NamesMeadow Frogs
Scientific NameLithobates pipiens
LocationsNorth America except the Pacific Coast
CharacteristicsLeopard-like patterns on body
ColorLight green, brown, dark brown.
OriginCanada, North America
Conservation StatusLeast Concern
FamilyRanidae
GenusLithobates
SpeciesL. pipiens
PoisonousNo
Max Length4.3 in
Max Weight1.41 oz
Lifespan4 – 9 years

Northern Leopard Frogs earn their name from the spots that cover their bodies that resemble those of leopards. Their spots usually have thin light-colored rings around them. 

Apart from their distinctive spots, Northern Leopard Frogs have two very visible and protruding dorsolateral folds running down their bodies from the back of their eyes down to the end of their backs. These dorsolateral folds are typically a beige or tan color.

Northern Leopard Frogs spend most of their time basking in water. They also have relatively long limbs and webbed toes since they are aquatic frogs. Northern Leopard Frogs generally prefer clear freshwater ponds, swamps, and marshes with little or no fish in them. 

How to Spot Northern Leopard Frogs? 

Northern Leopard Frogs originate from Canada into the Northern regions of the United States down to the central South West. In Canada, Northern Leopard Frogs can be found in practically every province.

So, if you live in any of these places or are visiting and would like to spot Northern Leopard Frogs, here are my top tips to find them:

  • Northern Leopard Frogs are harder to spot during the day but look around slow-moving freshwater ponds, marshes, swamps, lakeshores and prairies to find them, generally near the shoreline among vegetation.
  • Since they are nocturnal, these frogs spend most nights moving around looking for food on land. Therefore, it is generally best to take a flashlight and search for them right after the sun sets.
  • During mating season, which is typically from March to June, these frogs are very vocal. Males make mating calls to attract mates of the same species. If you follow the sound of their calles, it will be much easier to find them.

Like most amphibians, Northern Leopard Frogs are barely active during the daytime. Instead, they spend their time in the water or hiding under vegetation on land. It is harder to find them during this period because their skin color blends in so well with their environment.

Although I have found Northern Leopard Frogs outside of water near lakes during the day, I still find it is easiest time to find them is when the sunsets.

Interesting Facts about the Northern Leopard Frogs

  • Northern Leopard Frogs earn their name from their most notable characteristic: the leopard-like spots on their skin.
  • Northern Leopard Frogs are great travelers and generally migrate from damp swampy areas to prairies and wet grassland in the Summer.
  • Northern Leopard Frogs can stay in elevations up to 9,800 feet above sea level.
  • Females in these species can lay up to 6,500 eggs each during the breeding season.
  • Northern Leopard Frogs produce certain organic compounds that are used to cure cancer.
  • Although they are not officially endangered, the population of Northern Leopard Frogs is declining in some places due to their use in classrooms for dissection.
  • Northern Leopard Frogs are hunted for their leg meat in some places although American Bullfrogs and Pig Frogs would be better choices to hunt since they are larger and provide more meat.
  • Southern Leopard Frogs are Northern Leopard Frogs close cousins that can be found across the southern United States from Texas, as far north as Missorui, and down to Florida all the way up the Atlantic coast to New York.
  • The call of a Northern Leopard Frog is like a really low and rumbling snore or a vibrating grunt.
  • Northern Leopard Frogs are known for screaming loudly when startled, grasped, or frightened by a predator.

More About Northern Leopard Frogs

Northern Leopard Frogs earn their name from their likeness to leopards-like spots. Over the years, they have become a favorite species for many researchers looking forward to making advancements in science. 

Learn more about Leopard Frogs in the following guides on our blog:

Common Questions About Northern Leopard Frogs

Are Northern Leopard Frogs poisonous? Northern Leopard Frogs are not poisonous. Their skin glands are incapable of producing harmful and dangerous toxins to humans, unlike some toads and other species of frogs. 

Can you keep a Northern Leopard Frog as a pet? It is not recommended to keep Northern Leopard Frogs as indoor pets. It is possible to naturally attract them to your yard as outdoor “pets” if you have a frog pond to observe them in their natural habitat” 

What do Northern Leopard Frogs eat? Northern Leopard Frogs like to eat a variety of insects like ants, grasshoppers, crickets, flies, and cockroaches. They also eat slugs, snails, smaller frogs, and even garter snakes depending on their size.

What are Northern Leopard Frogs’ predators? Northern Leopard Frogs have many predators including birds of prey like hawks, owls, crows, eagles, ducks, and herons that usually love to feast on these frogs. Also, snakes, rodents, larger frogs, and toads are common predators of Northern Leopard Frogs.

How many eggs do Northern Leopard Frogs lay? Northern Leopard Frogs can lay between 600 to 6,000 eggs in the water where they will go through the frog life cycle of becoming tadpoles, froglets and then adult frogs.

Do Northern Leopard Frogs hibernate? Northern Leopard Frogs hibernate at the bottom of freshwater ponds below the ice. They slow down their metabolism and remain dormant until the ice melts and the temperature warms up in the spring.

Are Northern Leopard Frogs endangered? Northern Leopard Frogs are listed as Least Concern in the IUCN’s red list. However, they face habitat loss issues which are a significant threat to their continued existence, as well as declines in population in some areas due to their overuse as dissection frogs in classes across North America.

Sources

Committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada, Assessment and Update Status Report on the Northern Leopard Frog, 2009.

Kendell, Kris. Northern Leopard Frog Recovery Program, Year 6, 2004.

Geoffrey Hammerson, Frank Solís, Roberto Ibáñez, César Jaramillo, Querube Fuenmayor. 2004. Lithobates pipiens. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T58695A11814172.

Umesh P. Singh, Wojciech Ardelt, Shailendra K. Saxena, Daniel E. Holloway, Eugene Vidunas, Hung-Suen Lee, Abha Saxena, Kuslima Shogen, K. Ravi Acharya,Enzymatic and Structural Characterisation of Amphinase, a Novel Cytotoxic Ribonuclease from Rana pipiens Oocytes, Journal of Molecular Biology, Volume 371, Issue 1, 2007, Pages 93-111, ISSN 0022-2836, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmb.2007.04.071.