Photo Credit: Mitchell Marks
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Rana palustris
STATUS: Fairly common to uncommon and locally distributed in all regions above Fall Line, with disjunct populations in Lime Hills and Southern Pine Plains and Hills of Coastal Plain (Monroe and Conecuh counties). A Conecuh County population. associated with a limestone cave, has not been confirmed in over two decades. Low Conservation Concern.
DESCRIPTION: Pickerel frogs are a medium sized frog attaining a maximum length of 3.5 inches. They typically are light brown to gray with dorsolateral ridges, between which are bold rectangular dark spots in two rows, some of which may be fused. They have a light line along upper jaw and the tympanum and eye are about the same size. There is a small spot present above each eye and often one on the snout. Their sides have scattered dark spots and hind legs are banded with yellow or orange coloration on concealed surfaces. The hind feet have extensive webbing between the toes. Their undersides are white with dark mottling.
DISTRIBUTION: In Alabama, these frogs are found north of the Fall Line, except in the lower Piedmont and lower reaches of the Ridge and Valley region where they are apparently absent. Pickerel frogs also occur locally in the Coastal Plain in the western segment of the Red Hills, and are recorded from a cave near Brooklyn in Covington County, in the upper edge of the lower Coastal Plain.
HABITAT: Their habitat is variable, but throughout most of their range pickerel frogs tends to be associated with cool, clear water environments in upland forests and meadows. Frequently encountered in, and near, cave entrances, but exploits other cool-water habitats.
FEEDING HABITS: Pickerel frogs eat a balanced diet of ants, spiders, earthworms, bugs, beetles, sawfly larvae, and other invertebrates.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Pickerel frogs are nocturnal and breeding occurs during winter and early spring. Their call is a variable, low-pitched croaking, which often has a snore-like quality, lasting 1-2 seconds. Pickerel frog eggs are laid in globular masses of up to about 3000 and attached to underwater vegetation. Their breeding site is usually a woodland pool or a quiet pocket in a small stream.
In case of attack, pickerel frogs produce skin secretions which are irritating to people and toxic to many reptiles and other amphibians, making them unappetizing to some predators. This toxicity makes pickerel frogs the only poisonous frog native to the United States. Because of this, most snakes and mammals will leave pickerel frogs alone. Still, this frog does have some predators. Bullfrogs, for example, have developed immunities to the secretions as well as some fish. In fact, the name "pickerel frog" was coined because fishermen often used this frog as their bait of choice for the predatory pickerel fish.
Mount, R.H. 1975. The Reptiles and Amphibians of Alabama. Auburn Printing Company, Alabama. 347 pp.
Author: Marisa Lee, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries