What Happens to Frogs and Toads during Oklahoma Winters?
Each and every year we get numerous calls about frogs, toads and tadpoles in and around the Oklahoma metro area ponds and water features. These amphibians are loud and obnoxious early in the year when it's mating season. You know that loud squeal that makes you jump out of bed and scream at them! Just remember you have a natural ecosystem in your yard they call home, along with other wildlife. But have you ever wondered....
What is the difference between a Toad and Frog?
Frogs - Smooth skin, high round bulging eyes, narrow body, longer hind legs than a Toad, takes long high jumps and must live near water.
Toads - Tough bumpy looking skin, football looking eyes, wider body than a Frog, less powerful legs, runs and takes small jumps, does not need to live by water.
What happens to Frogs and Toads during Oklahoma Winters?
Aquatic frogs typically hibernate underwater. A common misconception is that they spend the winter the way aquatic turtles do, dug into the mud at the bottom of a pond or stream. In fact, hibernating frogs would suffocate if they dug into the mud for an extended period of time. A hibernating turtle's metabolism slows down so drastically that it can get by on the mud's meager oxygen supply. Hibernating aquatic frogs, however, must be near oxygen-rich water (like your pond) and spend a good portion of the winter just lying on top of the mud or only partially buried. They may even slowly swim around from time to time.
Tip: Keep an eye on your pump during the Winter months, frogs love the heat your pump produces. It's not uncommon to find 10-20 frogs in your skimmer fighting to sit on top of your warm pump. (see picture)
Will Frogs freeze in my Oklahoma Pond?
Ponds that are at least 2 ft. deep, will not freeze solid, even when winters are very cold. When amphibians become cold, they need very little oxygen and burn very little food. Frogs will appear sluggish and lethargic as body functions slow down as the temperature drops. Ice crystals form in such places as the body cavity, bladder and under the skin, but a high concentration of glucose in the frog's vital organs prevents freezing. A partially frozen frog will stop breathing, and its heart will stop beating. It will appear quite dead. But when the hibernacula warms up above freezing, the frog's frozen portions will thaw, and its heart and lungs resume activity--there really is such a thing as the living dead!
For more information and pictures about Native Oklahoma Frogs and Toads - https://www.aza.org/frogwatch-usa-oklahoma
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Tim Trammell has been building, designing, servicing and maintaining pond in the Oklahoma City Metro area for over 20 years. His company Continental Ponds, is Oklahoma's first Master Certified Aquascape Contractor and is an national award winning pond and water feature builder.