Coconino County, AZ
|NORTHERN LEOPARD FROG Lithobates pipiens|
DESCRIPTION: In Arizona, the northern leopard frog is a smooth-skinned green, brown, or sometimes yellow-green frog with well-defined dark spots. One large dark spot is typically present on the snout. This is the only Arizona leopard frog with complete dorsolateral folds. The pattern on the rear of the thigh is also diagnostic, and includes a few dark spots or blotches on a light background. A big northern leopard frog is about 4.5 inches in length. Tadpoles are similar to the Plains leopard frog, but less pale, and with dark spots and patches on the tail. Tadpoles reach 3.25 inches total length.
HABITAT: In Arizona, the northern leopard frog inhabited mostly ponds, cattle tanks, and lakes, but was also found in streams and rivers from 3,120 to 9,150 feet elevation. It is currently limited to cattle/wildlife tanks and a lake.
BEHAVIOR: Can be found active day or night when water temperatures are roughly >54 degrees F. May be active in wet meadows away from water during summer.
DIET: Northern leopard frogs eat a variety of aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates. Larger frogs eat small leopard frogs, other amphibians, fish, snakes, and other vertebrates, as well.
REPRODUCTION AND CALLS: Not well documented in Arizona, but breeding probably occurs from April-July (late summer breeding has been documented in New Mexico). In Glen Canyon, Arizona, northern leopard frogs probably deposit egg masses during late April–early May. Most tadpoles likely metamorphose in 3-6 months before the fall cool down, but some tadpoles in Arizona overwinter. The advertisement call is a medley of chuckles, snores, and grunts.
REMARKS: Causes of decline include drought and non-native predators, but other factors have likely played a role, as well. Although not documented in the species in Arizona, northern leopard frogs in other regions have suffered from the fungal skin disease, chytridomycosis. A 2004 study found that populations west of the Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region are genetically quite different from eastern populations. The western populations have been petitioned to be listed as threatened under the Federal Endangered Species Act.
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