Northern Leopard Frog

Media
Image of a northern leopard frog
Status
Name
Species of Conservation Concern
Scientific Name
Lithobates pipiens
Family
Ranidae (true frogs) in the order Anura (frogs)
Description

The northern leopard frog is medium-sized with brown or green ground color and, on the back, large, round, black spots surrounded by light rings. It has two wide skin folds running continuously down each side of the back all the way to the groin. There usually is a large, round, dark spot on the short, blunt nose. Makes a deep, rattling snore with occasional clucking grunts, sounding like the sound of rubbing a wet thumb slowly along the surface of an inflated balloon.

Similar species: The southern leopard frog and plains leopard frog do not have such a wide and/or continuous skin fold along the sides of the back, and they lack the distinct white rings around each dark spot. The spots on the southern leopard frog’s back are elongated, not round.

Size

Length (snout to vent): 2 to 3 inches.

Where To Find
Northern Leopard Frog Distribution Map

Found only in northwestern Missouri. Overall range includes Canada and the northeastern and north-central United States, extending into the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains.

This species is active from March to October. It lives in or near marshes, flooded ditches, and small ponds and lakes. In our state, it can occur along the edge of small marshes and shallow drainage ditches. Like other leopard frogs, it moves into grassy areas in summer. In autumn, leopard frogs move to permanent water where they can retreat to the bottom or into mud for the winter.

Leopard frogs eat a variety of insects and spiders.

A Species of Conservation Concern in Missouri. Where this species and the closely related plains leopard frog occur in the same areas in northwestern Missouri, they apparently can hybridize. This might be causing a decline in the rarer northern leopard frog due to genetic swamping.

Life Cycle

In Missouri, breeding is in late March through mid-April. Males call, beginning at dusk, from small areas of open water in marshes or shallow ponds. Eggs are laid in shallow, grassy water. A female may lay up to 6,000 eggs in globular masses attached to submerged sticks or vegetation. These hatch in 10–15 days. The tadpoles transform into froglets after 2–2½ months (in late May to mid-June).

As predators, these amphibians help decrease populations of many insects that are pests to humans. Additionally, their strange snoring, grunting choruses add to the magic of a Missouri evening.

Frogs are predators that help keep populations of insects and other small animals in balance. They, and especially their eggs, tadpoles, and young froglets, become food for both aquatic and terrestrial predators ranging from water bugs to fish to grackles to raccoons.

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Where to See Species

This Natural Area was purchased from the Kauffman family in 1992. It is named after the late Chloe (Kauffman) Lowry, beloved aunt and wife of the late Frank Lowry, a prominent local business man.
About Reptiles and Amphibians in Missouri
Missouri’s herptiles comprise 43 amphibians and 75 reptiles. Amphibians, including salamanders, toads, and frogs, are vertebrate animals that spend at least part of their life cycle in water. They usually have moist skin, lack scales or claws, and are ectothermal (cold-blooded), so they do not produce their own body heat the way birds and mammals do. Reptiles, including turtles, lizards, and snakes, are also vertebrates, and most are ectothermal, but unlike amphibians, reptiles have dry skin with scales, the ones with legs have claws, and they do not have to live part of their lives in water.