Leapers, peepers and pollywogs
Are we talking about Kermit or The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County or if you kiss a frog, will a prince appear? Perhaps, but why? The sound of singing frogs are a sure sign of spring, even in the Copper Country. Frogs are also an interesting amphibian species and an important part of aquatic ecosystems.
In Michigan we have 26 amphibian species, including 12 frogs, 12 salamanders, and two toads. Worldwide there are 3,400 species of amphibians, with most of these being found in the tropics.
In the spring, male frogs can be heard singing (Froggie Went A-courtin’, he did go … so the song goes) in practically every water body in Michigan, from Houghton Lake, our largest inland lake at 20,000 acres (31-plus square miles), to a mud puddle in a two-track in the Keweenaw. Almost all frogs need water to reproduce, while in the larval stage.
Frogs are cold-blooded and do not produce internal heat (ectothermic). They have a larval stage, which are called pollywogs or tadpoles. In this stage, they have gills by which they breathe, much like fish. They also are legless and move with a long paddle-like tail. Over time they develop legs and lungs, with the tail being absorbed. This process is called metamorphosis. They winter by burrowing into mud or sitting on the bottom of a pond or lake, using their skin as a secondary way to breathe.
Lets take a brief look at Michigan’s 12 frog species, four of which are tree frogs. Ten of these are found in the UP.
Boreal Chorus frog – Average size of 1.5 inches and is found only on Isle Royale. Song is a “reek,” sung continuously. One of first to emerge, with snow remaining on the ground.
Blanchard’s Cricket frog – This is a tree frog found only in the LP and is rare. Average size of 1 inch. Song is a metallic clinking, like tapping of two metal balls.
Bullfrog – Our largest frog, getting up to 8 inches long. They are one of two Michigan frogs to spend 2-3 years in the tadpole stage. Song is a very bass “jug’o’rum.”
Cope’s Gray Treefrog – Average size of 1.75 inches. They are strictly nocturnal and found only in the LP. Song is a musical trill. Rare.
Gray Treefrog – Average size of 1.75 inches. Closely related to Cope’s Treefrog. Similar habits and song. Found in both the UP and LP.
Mink frog – Average size is 1.5 inch. Name comes from a musky, mink-like odor emitted when handled. Song is a hammering “kook, kuk, kuk, kuk, kook.”
Northern Green frog – Average size of 3.25 inches. The other Michigan frog to spend 2-3 years in tadpole stage. Song is a deep clung, clung, clung. Very common.
Northern Leopard frog – Average size of 3 inches. Looks like a green leopard. Song is a low croaking snore. Common.
Northern Spring Peeper – Small, with maximum size of 1 inch. It is a tree frog and the sound associated with spring. Song is like a chick peeping, produced continuously. Common.
Pickeral frog – Average size of 2.5 inches. Color similar to a Leopard frog, but is rare. Song is a soft, short snore-like croak.
Western Chorus frog – Average size of 1.5 inches. Color is brown, with dark stripes along the back. Song is a “cree-e-k, like running a finger along a comb’s teeth. Common.
Wood frog – Average size of 2-2.5 inches. A brownish frog, with a dark eye mask. Song is a duck-like quack. Common.
The calls of each species are very distinctive and can be found on the DNR’s web site, under Frog & Toad survey. They are always looking for more participants.
Frogs, in addition to being an ecological indicator, are very beneficial, eating billions of insects every year. Healthy frog populations mean healthy aquatic ecosystems.
The harvest of frogs and turtles is regulated by DNR. The regulations can be found in the Fishing Digest. A fishing license is required for harvest and/or possession.
Fish also like to eat frogs, especially brook trout! One of my favorite brookie lures is a frog colored flatfish, especially in beaver dams or lakes. In creeks, cast upstream and retrieved past cover and through deep holes is something brook trout can’t resist. Have you ever had frog legs? Yummy!