Amphibians have survived through numerous harsh natural events and weather conditions, even though they thrive in warmer seasons. Frogs are often abundant in various locations throughout the year but seem to go missing during cold seasons, leading many animal lovers to wonder where frogs may go during the Winter.
Generally, aquatic frogs go under decaying vegetation at the bottom of freshwater bodies, toads go below the frostline underground, and tree frogs hide under leaf litter during Winter. Therefore, frogs hibernate during Winter due to the unfavourable climate, temperature, and lack of resources.
While winters pose some substantial challenges for frogs’ survival, they have adapted over time and typically manage to make it through the turmoils of this season very well. Join me as I discuss where frogs go in Winter and why frogs hibernate.
Note: The use of the term “hibernation” to qualify prolonged, ectothermic amphibian rest is a debated topic in the biology community, as many scientists prefer the term “brumation” for frogs. Brumaiton is used to qualify prolonged periods of rest for ectothermic animals. However, due to what readers are searching online, we will use the term “hibernation” this article.
Frogs Hibernate During The Winter
Frogs typically hibernate during Winter, meaning they spend the coldest months of the year in a dormant state due to unfavourable conditions, harsh temperatures, and lack of food. Frogs need to take shelter and wait for warmer months to survive the Winter.
The location frogs chose to hibernate generally depends on the type of frog and the available areas in their habitats.
Here is a list of places where frogs go in the winter depending on the species:
|Type of Frog||Habitat||Hibernation Method||Hibernation Locations|
|Aquatic||Water||Float||Floor of fresh freezing water bodies|
|Arboreal||Trees||Lay||Under leaf litter|
|Terrestrial||Land||Burrow||Under soil below the frost line|
In order to prepare for hibernation, frogs generally take in excess food to acts as a nutrition reserve for them during the cold months, supplying their bodies with enough nourishment to survive through hibernation.
Learn more about how frogs hibernate during the winter on our blog
Aquatic Frogs Go Underwater
Frogs that thrive in water bodies, otherwise known as aquatic frogs, typically need far more moisture to survive compared to other types of frogs. They will not live long without access to water, which means that they choose aquatic spaces to hibernate during winters. They generally lay at the bottom of ponds, lakes, and other water bodies.
Examples of aquatic frog species that use these locations for winter hibernation include:
These frogs can survive underwater for quite some time as they breathe through their skin and absorb oxygen from the surrounding water. The oxygen levels in cold waters below 39°F are fairly high, which supports their needs.
Arboreal Frogs Go Under Leaf Litter
During Winter, Tree Frogs generally hide under leaf litter, in tree hollows, and under exposed tree roots so that they can avoid direct exposure to the freezing temperatures. In addition, they are able to survive due to how their blood-sugar level increases to prevent their vital organs from freezing.
Arboreal frog species, commonly referred to as tree frogs, typically hide in leaf piles, tree cracks, or at the foot of trees in their habitats. But, hiding in these areas often provides very little shelter from the harsh colds. Since they cannot dig holes or hide underwater for protection, they have adapted to survive Winters by other means.
Treefrogs can freeze between 40% and 65% of their bodies ’ water content during winter, meaning that they are mostly frozen. During this process, their liver begins producing glucose in excess and sending it to all the cells within the body.
These elevated sugar levels bind water molecules inside the cells to prevent dehydration while preventing tree frog from freezing completely. They have little to no heartbeat, breathing, or muscle mobility during this time.
Examples of arboreal frogs that hide in leaf litter or trees while using this ‘freezing’ method include:
Learn more about how tree frogs hibernate during winter on our blog
Terrestrial Frogs Go Underground
During Winter, toads generally burrow underground below the frost line to avoid direct exposure to the freezing temperatures. Toads are cold-blooded, and although tree frogs can withstand extreme freezes, toads are not freeze-tolerant and may die if exposed to freezing temperatures.
Toads are terrestrial frog species that often burrow into the soil within their habitats, using them as safe spots for shelter, food, and hibernation. Terrestrial frogs often have uniquely shaped feet, making it easier for them to dig into the ground. Still, these frogs prefer softer soil and sand for ease of digging.
Examples of toads include:
These frogs generally dig till approximately 3 feet below the frost line, giving them enough space to avoid freezing temperatures. Contrary to popular belief, most terrestrial frog species find spots inland and not necessarily near water bodies since they do not need as much moisture to survive throughout winters.
You can help toads survive winter by creating a hibernaculum for them in your yard:
Frogs living in these habitats can survive in drier conditions, but they still need moisture to various degrees. They generally absorb moisture from the surrounding soil and breathe through their skin by absorbing oxygen from the soils as well. They may prefer to hide in natural crevices, rodent tunnels, and under rocks for hibernation (CTNF).
Why Do Frogs Disappear In The Winter?
Frogs generally hibernate throughout winters, much like most animals living in the wild. Frogs will typically prepare for hibernation all year round to ensure optimal survival chances during these harsh weather conditions.
While some regions experience cold and wet winters, many regions experience drastically low temperatures, ice, snow, chilling winds, and much more. I live in Canada where the temperature can easily reach -40°C (-40°F) during the Winter.
Frogs are not equipped to survive in such conditions without hibernation, and continuing in their normal Summer behavior and routines will likely result in fatalities since frogs can freeze to death.
This risk is far more serious for amphibians since frogs are cold blooded creatures. Their cold blooded nature means that they naturally take on the temperature of their surroundings. Choosing hibernation locations that somewhat protect them from direct exposure to these temperatures helps them maintain sufficient warmth for survival.
More About Where Frogs Go in Winter
Frogs are equipped with a wide range of natural tools and abilities that they use to survive harsh conditions. The location used for winter hibernations generally depends on the frog species, type, and available areas within their habitats. But, all frogs use similar approaches to survive until spring.
While frogs prepare for winter hibernation all year round, the average survival rate predominantly depends on many different factors. A key influence is whether or not the frog manages to sustain sufficient nutrition to survive until spring arrives, as they bulk up on food as winter draws near.
Learn more about were frogs go in Winter and how they survive these harsh conditions on our blog: