The pickerel frog is named after the fish for which it is often used as bait.
The pickerel frog (Lithobates palustrisis) medium sized and has smooth, tan skin with prominent bronze dorsolateral folds (folds of skin running down each side of the back), and often has yellow or orange coloration in the groin area. Two or, rarely, three parallel rows of dark, squarish spots run down the back between the dorsolateral folds. Adult pickerel frogs can grow up to eight centimetres in length. The call of this species is a low nasal snore, somewhat like the mooing of a cow. The call does not carry very far and is often missed in surveys of frog calls. To complicate matters, this frog sometimes calls from under water. Listen to the call of pickerel frog (courtesy of Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme).
The pickerel frog is quite similar to the northern leopard frog. The main feature distinguishing the two species is the shape of the spots. The pickerel frog has square spots, usually in rows, and the leopard has round spots in a more random pattern. The leopard frog may be either green or brown. The call of the pickerel frog is similar to that of the leopard frog but lacks its low grunts.
Pickerel frogs inhabit ponds and streams with stable water temperatures, particularly springs and cold seepages. In some parts of the United States, these frogs even occupy caves. This species spends the summer away from water (usually in damp locations), foraging in fields and meadows, and overwinters in the bottom of ponds or other waterbodies.
View an interactive map of the known ranges of pickerel frogs in Ontario.
Pickerel frogs breed from mid- to late spring and generally somewhat later than northern leopard frogs in the same area. The female lays clumps of 1,000 to 3,000 eggs in masses that are attached to submerged vegetation in still water. The eggs hatch in seven to 21 days, and the tadpoles transform after three to four months, but individuals in more northern areas may overwinter before metamorphosing.
After metamorphosis, pickerel frogs reach maturity in about two years and live up to five years. This species feeds on both terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, including snails, small crayfish and a variety of insects.
Other names: Rana palustris
Threats and Trends
Pickerel frogs are exposed to the same threats as other frogs, including habitat loss and degradation, predation, road kill and pollution. Despite having habitat needs that are similar to those of the leopard frog, the pickerel frog is much less common and its range and abundance are poorly documented.
Current Status and Protection
The pickerel frog is currently assigned a status of Not at Risk by both the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada and the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007. The species has No Schedule and No Status under the federal Species at Risk Act. The species has no protection under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the global status of the pickerel frog as Least Concern. The species status was confirmed in December 2020.
Learn more about reptile and amphibian conservation and what you can do to help these species on our Reptile and Amphibian Stewardship page.
What You Can Do
- Report a sighting
- Get involved in reptile and amphibian conservation on your property, on the road and in your community
- Donate to support reptile and amphibian conservation
- Watch for reptiles and amphibians on the road
- Don’t release pet reptiles and amphibians into the wild
- Read more about the pickerel frog in the Ontario Reptile and Amphibians Atlas publication.