Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

The Leopard Frogs

©2000 Terry Gampper


Basic Information
During the nineteenth century, scientists grouped most green frogs with brown spots and yellow dorsolateral folds or ridges (lengthwise ridges of skin along the sides of the back) as leopard frogs. Today, this group of frogs is known as the "Rana pipiens complex". They are part of a group of frogs known as "true frogs", Family Ranidae. Leopard frogs are found in nearly every state in the U.S.

Leopard frogs can be found in almost any habitat where land and permanent water meet. They are medium-sized, reaching about 4 inches in length. Even though these frogs look very similar, they have distinguishing features that make it easy to identify the various species. Also, it is a fascinating fact that there is very little overlap in their geographic range. These frogs are generally nocturnal (active at night).

Description and Range
Rio Grande Leopard Frog (Rana berlandieri): Pale green; large dark spots between russet dorsolateral ridges - ridges broken near hind legs; jaw stripe poorly defined. Southern New Mexico to central Texas and northern Mexico; isolated population in southwestern Arizona. Able to tolerate dry conditions.

Plains Leopard Frog (Rana blairi): Green to brown; large dark spots between yellow dorsolateral ridges - ridges broken near hind legs; prominent jaw stripe; light spot on eardrum (tympanum). Eastern Colorado to western Indiana; Kansas south to central Texas. The call is two or three distinct guttural notes.

Relict Leopard Frog (Rana onca): Brown; large gray-edged dark spots between light-color dorsolateral ridges - ridges broken near hind legs; upper jaw stripe. Virgin River area (where Nevada, Arizona and Utah meet).

Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens): Brown or green; large, light-edged dark spots between light-color dorsolateral ridges - ridges continuous to groin; upper jaw stripe; no spot on ear drum. Throughout northern United States and Great Basin (except west coast). The call is often described as a long snore followed by a series of short grunts.

Southern Leopard Frog (Rana utricularia): Green to brown; large dark spots between light-color dorsolateral ridges - ridges continuous to groin; upper jaw stripe; a light spot in center of ear drum. Southern New York to Florida Keys, west to east Texas, north to Iowa east to Kentucky. The call resembles a chuckle-like guttural trill.

General Care
Leopard frogs will spend much of their time hidden in and foraging through the damp undergrowth of temperate forests. A temperate woodland terrarium will be ideal for these frogs. Keep your terrarium design simple so it will be easy to maintain and clean. The substrate should be chemical-free soil covered with a generous layer of leaf mulch. The soil should be deep enough for the frog to bury itself. Decorative logs and rocks should be provided for hiding places. If the logs or rocks are not terrarium ready, they should be baked in a low oven or put in boiling water to kill any harmful parasites. A variety of low-growing ferns will make an ideal addition to the terrarium. The cage should have a small land area and a large, shallow water bowl. These frogs enjoy a wide variety of insects and worms, such as night crawlers, crickets and woodlice. No special lighting (except for the plants) or heating is required. Since these frogs are very active and can adapt well to all parts of North America, they will make good candidates for outdoor greenhouses. They should not be housed with smaller animals since they are likely to be eaten. With proper care, leopard frogs will make an enjoyable and hardy pet for all ages.

A Conservation Moment
Reptiles and amphibians throughout the world are disappearing at a very fast rate. They are victims of senseless slaughter, the destruction of habitats and exploitation from the pet trade. If we are to save these creatures, we must educate ourselves and understand the nature of these cold-blooded animals. Just because they are not cute and cuddly, like dogs and cats, they are beneficial because they destroy many of the pests that plague us. We must not abuse these animals but allow them to live freely within their habitat.

The greatest enemy of reptiles and amphibians today is pollution and the ruination of their habitat. Each time we build a new shopping center, an industrial area or a new housing development, we must also consider creation of "green spaces" - places where animals and humans can co-exist. The establishment of a network of garden ponds within a neighborhood will help bring back the amphibians and other animals. It seems that us humans have lost our wild side, preferring to live in nice, neat, orderly and mundane spaces.

Great Britain leads the way in pond conservation. Communities in Britain are working to restore ponds for environmental reasons as many now realize how essential they are for the ecosystem. Through the Ponds Conservation Trust, nearly 15,000 ponds have been created or restored throughout the country. Many places in England have a wildlife trust, dedicated to preserving the native wildlife within that city our county. The people of the area are being educated on how they can play a part in protecting animal and plant species. Currently, I am collecting information about these grassroots programs and will report soon on my findings. Amphibians - frogs, toads, salamanders and newts are excellent indicators of environmental quality.

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