What Kind of Frog Is This?

I’ve been getting this question a lot lately: “What kind of frog is this?” It is rainy season after all, and rain tends to bring out the frogs. In Florida, rainy season extends from May through October, so it’s prime time for these little — or big — amphibians. Unfortunately, all the frog inquiries I’ve received lately have been identified as one of two invasive frog species: the Cuban treefrog or the cane toad.

Three different images of cuban treefrogs
A captured Cuban treefrog (left). Note the use of a leaf to protect my skin from possible irritation. A Cuban treefrog inside a screened porch (top), and a Cuban treefrog on a boardwalk (bottom). Photo Credit: Lara Milligan

Here’s a quick review: Invasive species are those that are not native – in other words, not from — a specific area in which they are currently found. Furthermore, they were introduced by humans either on purpose or on accident, and they cause or can cause some type of economic or ecological harm.

The word “frogs” encompasses a broad category that includes toads.

There are a few ways to categorize frogs, but a good way to think about them is by habitat:
  • Terrestrial frogs are found mostly on the ground and usually have dry, bumpy skin
  • Arboreal frogs are found mostly up on vegetation or buildings and have enlarged, sticky toepads to aid in their climbing
  • Aquatic frogs are found mostly in the water and usually have webbing between their toes to aid in swimming.

Okay, so back to the Cuban treefrog and cane toad.

One thing to note about both is that we do not have native species of treefrog or toad that get to be as large as these invasive species. So, good tips to remember are:

  • If you find a treefrog (remember, up on vegetation/buildings with large toepads) larger than 2.5 inches, it is likely a Cuban treefrog. They can get up to 5.5 inches. One tricky thing about Cuban treefrogs is they are quite variable in appearance from patterned greens to light brown to almost white (see images below)!
Cuban treefrog on rain gutter
Cuban treefrog on rain gutter. Photo Credit: Cathy Svercl
Cuban treefrog
A large Cuban treefrog. Note the large, bulging eyes and bumpy skin.
  • If you find a toad (remember, down on the ground with dry, bumpy skin) larger than 4 inches, it is likely an invasive cane toad. They can get up to 9.5 inches.

    Cane toads in pet food bowls
    Cane toads in pet food dishes. Photo Credit: Toni Mace.

I recently had someone inquire about a frog, asking if it was a Cuban treefrog or a cane toad. The image they sent me was of a large frog up on top of a fence post. Based on what we already reviewed above, what do you think it was? Yup, a Cuban treefrog. Why? Because it was large and up on top of a fence post. Cane toads do not have the ability to climb up on vertical surfaces.

I’m not going to go into detail on these species, as our state wildlife specialist has already put together some amazing resources you can find online at http://bit.ly/UFfrogs

I want to wrap up with a call to action…

If you find one of these invasive frog species in your yard, we recommend they are humanely euthanized. You can learn more about this process for Cuban treefrogs here, and cane toads here. These species pose a threat to our native species, and in the case of the cane toad, to our pets. Let’s do what we can to protect the 16 species of native frogs found in Central Florida. We always ask you to first confirm the identification of any invasive species before taking action to ensure we are not harming a similar-looking native species. UF/IFAS Extension is here to help you do just that!

If you ever want help identifying a species in your yard, please take a quality photo and email it to me at lara317@ufl.edu.


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Posted: September 30, 2020

Category: Natural Resources
Tags: Commonly Confused, Frog, Wildlife

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