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Pickerel Frog

The Pickerel Frog occurs in Eastern North America, through Canada and the United States. It is a smooth amphibian that is often confused with the Leopard Frog, though it can be distinguished by its characteristic rows of square dark blotches.

Wild populations remain stable with little threats to the species as a whole. 

Common NamePickerel Frog 
Other NameNone
Scientific NameLithobates palustris
LocationsSoutheastern Canada
Eastern United States 
CharacteristicsSquarish black splotches in rows down back
Yellow legs, smooth skin
ColorGray, tan, yellow
OriginEastern North America
Conservation StatusLeast Concern 
PoisonousYes – Distasteful to predators 
Max Length10cm (3.5 inches) 
Max WeightUnknown

Geographical Range 

Pickerel Frogs have a nice range throughout eastern North America. 

They span through Canada and the United States and frequent different habitats and climate and temperature zones. 

In Canada, Pickerel Frogs inhabit multiple different provinces. 

They can be found through New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec. 

Follow the Appalachian Mountain range south and you will follow their range. 

In the United States, Pickerel Frogs frequent the east coast. 

Pickerel Frogs can be found from Wisconsin, through Michigan, and to Maine in the north, all the way down through New Jersey and Georgia in the south. 

Their inland range also consists of the states Mississippi, Illinois, and Texas

Pickerel Frog Habitat  

Pickerel Frogs prefer wooded regions with accessible pools or ponds. 

They can be found in open meadows and fields. 

They seem to prefer their wetland habitats to be bogged or herbaceous. 

In their northern range they use cool streams and ponds. 

Their southern range populations frequent warm swamps. 

They have adapted to urbanization a bit as they have been found in drainage ditches and quarries. 

Pickerel Frogs are highly adapted to life in caves and they often use them for hibernation sites. 

Abandoned mines do not bother them either. 

Current Conservation Status 

Pickerel Frogs are listed as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

This means their population as a whole is stable. 

There may be localized population declines due to habitat destruction, but globally they are holding up just fine. 

Potential threats to Pickerel frogs include habitat alteration and degradation

Since they have been found inhabiting man-made and abandoned settings, they may be adapting well to changes. 

Pollution of their breeding pools is a potential threat. 

Clear pools seem to be preferred when breeding. 

Pollutants and runoff can cloud pools and make them unsuitable for breeding or rearing tadpoles.

Coloration, Patterns, and Characteristics

Pickerel Frogs are often confused with the Leopard Frog of the same Ranidae anuran family

They share similar characteristics, geographical ranges, and preferred habitats. 

Pickerel Frogs are smooth-skinned with no warts on their bodies.

They display a gray, tan, or yellowish color on their doral top half. 

Their ventral belly is typically white and lighter. 

Their hind legs tend to showcase more of a yellow coloration than the rest of their bodies. 

This may be used as a defense mechanism against potential predators – more on this later! 

Pickerel Frogs have characteristic two rows of square or rectangular dark black blotches down their backs. 

This is the main characteristic that gets them confused with Leopard Frogs. 

The upper jaw of a Pickerel Frog has a light line across it. 

Anti-Predator Defenses  

Pickerel Frogs have a toxic skin secretion that is released by glands on their skin. 

This is distasteful to many potential predators. 

Many snakes that feed on frogs will avoid them for this reason. 

The brighter and yellow coloring on their hind legs and under bellies tends to act as a warning signal against potential predators. 

They will posture to display these colors, almost like saying “stay away, my bright color means I am poisonous.” 

Hibernation Habits

Pickerel Frogs are known to hibernate in caves that dot their habitats.

They have also been found hibernating on the bottom of waterways when caves are not accessible or nearby. 

They will emerge from hibernation based on a few different factors, all related to temperature. 

Water temperature should be around 60℉ (18℃). 

Their preferred soil temperature is 50℉ (12℃).

And ideal air temperature tends to warmer than both these factors, 70℉ (20℃).   

Breeding Behavior 

Pickerel Frogs will migrate from their hibernation sites, to their breeding grounds, and then to their summer habitats. 

They will remain in their summer habitat until it is time to hibernate again. Then they will start all over again. 

Season of breeding depends on their location within their geographical range. 

Many of it is temperature dependent, since they can occur in many different climate zones across North America. 

In their southern range they will breed between December and May. 

Their mid range breeds between March an dMay. 

Populations occupying the northern range breed between May and June. 

Pickerel Frogs breed in pools, ponds, and streams. 

They have also been known to spawn in wetlands, such as marshes. 

A Marsh Where I Like to Find Pickerel Frogs in Southern Quebec

Since they have adapted to human settlements, they will breed in sinkholes and quarry pools. 

Don’t forget their love of caves! Caves with stagnant water make for suitable breeding grounds! 

Eggs and Clutches

Males call out to potential mates with a call resembling a snore. 

They have paired vocal sacs to aid them in finding a mate. 

Males also have shorter forearms and swollen thumbs for clutching females during amplexus.

Females lay several firm egg clutches of 2000-3000 eggs on submerged vegetation. 

Eggs are brown and yellow and typically 1.7mm in diameter. 

Tadpoles emerge olive green with black and yellow spots.

How to Find A Pickerel Frog In the Wild

  • First thing is first, be sure to be in a Canadian province or United States state that occupies their range. States like Maine, New York, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Illinois. Places near Ottawa, the province of Nova Scotia, are good Canadian places to be.
  • Be out when the weather is within their preferred temperature range. This varies per region in their range, so pay attention to where you will be looking.
  • Check caves with standing water and pools and ponds in the woods. 
  • Listen for the snore-like call of males during mating season! 

Fun Facts About Pickerel Frogs! 

  • They may be nocturnal, some research is still coming out about this, so for now it is not certain. 
  • Snakes that snack on frogs tend to avoid these amphibians due to their toxic secretions.
  • They are not common pets. 
  • Tadpoles consume algae in their breeding pools. 
  • Adult Pickerel Frogs eat insects, spiders, and invertebrates.  


AmphibiaWeb. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://amphibiaweb.org

IUCN. 2022. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2022-2. https://www.iucnredlist.org.

Virginia Herpetological Society. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/amphibians/frogsandtoads/pickerel-frog/pickerel_frog.php