Photograph by Bates Littlehales
The northern leopard frog is perhaps most recognizable as the formaldehyde-soaked specimen in the high school lab tray.
Once the most abundant and widespread frog species in North America, leopard frogs were widely collected not only for dissection but for the food industry (frog legs) as well.
However, massive declines beginning in the early 1970s, particularly in Canada and the western United States, have significantly reduced their numbers. Scientists have not determined the cause of the declines, but it is likely a combination of ecological factors: pollution, deforestation, and water acidity.
Northern leopard frogs are so named for the array of irregularly shaped dark spots that adorn their backs and legs. They are greenish-brown in color with a pearly white underside and light-colored ridges on either side of their backs. They are considered medium-size, reaching lengths of 3 to 5 inches (7.6 to 12.7 centimeters), nose to rump. Females are slightly larger than males.
Their range is most of northern North America, except on the Pacific Coast. They generally live near ponds and marshes, but will often venture into well-covered grasslands as well, earning them their other common name, the meadow frog.
Leopard frogs will eat just about anything they can fit in their mouths. They sit still and wait for prey to happen by, then pounce with their powerful legs. They eat beetles, ants, flies, worms, smaller frogs, including their own species, and even birds, and garter snakes.
Northern Leopard Frog Range
- Type: Amphibian
- Diet: Carnivore
- Average life span in the wild: 2 to 4 years
- Size: 3 to 5 in (7.6 to 12.7 cm)
- Group name: Army
- Protection status: Threatened
- Did you know? A genetic mutation gives rise to the Burnsi leopard frogs, which have no spots.
- Size relative to a tea cup: