Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans)

The sight of one of the biggest frogs I had ever seen stopped me in my tracks. It was in a deep pool in the little stream that ran sort of parallel to this section of the trail. Quickly, I rolled up my jeans and took off my shoes and socks before running off the path. Unfortunately, my speed did not give the element of surprise I needed to catch the frog. However, as I walked along the stream bank, I saw plenty more where my big friend had come from – a plethora of huge frogs jumping into the water with little yelps. Jackpot.

One jumped into the water and I decided to just go after it. There was a great pile of dead leaves covering the bottom of the stream, but I stuck my arm into it and began to feel around. Something fleshy brushed against my palm, and I closed my fingers around it, silently praying “Please be a frog. Please just be a frog. Don’t be anything I’m going to regret touching.” Bringing my hand out of the water revealed a captured green frog (Lithobates clamitans).

L. clamitans has been described as one of Virginia’s most active frog species. They range the entire east United States, except for the Florida panhandle and a part of Illinois. There is a subspecies known as the bronze frog (Lithobates clamitans clamitans) that occurs in the southern half of the southeast…except for the Florida panhandle. Sorry Floridians!

L. clamitans is most frequently confused with other species such as the bull frog (Lithobates catesbeianus) and the pig frog (Lithobates grylio). In Virginia, where I found my green frog, the confusion of the ID is between green and bull. The below picture is from the Virginia Herpetological Society’s (VHS) website, depicting the major differences between the two species. Dorsal ridges and snout shape were all I had to go on. None of the pictures taken from my escapade in the stream showed the backs of the frogs, so an ID based on dorsal ridges was out. I puzzled over the frog with the VHS and we came to the conclusion of green frog based on the narrow snout.

Differences between L. clamitans (bottom) and L. catesbeianus (top). Appropriated from the Virginia Herpetological Society's website:
Differences between L. clamitans (top) and L. catesbeianus (bottom). Appropriated from the Virginia Herpetological Society’s website

They call from May to September and breed in the summer months. Their call has been likened to a struck banjo string – more of a “glunk” than an “Alligator Pie” banjo sound. It has been observed that males defend territory in the breeding months but that this territory shrinks when more vegetation is present, effectively blocking their neighbors from sight. Currently, they are calling in the college woods around our lake at my campus.


L. clamitans fresh out of the stream. Photographed by Matthew Anothony
L. clamitans fresh out of the stream in the college woods. Photographed by Matthew Anthony

Thank you for reading the article! If you enjoyed it, you should check out my other blog posts.

I used “Frogs & Toads of the Southeast” by Mike Dorcas and Whit Gibbons and “A Guide to the Frogs and Toads of Virginia” published by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. I also referenced a Dave Matthews Band song “Alligator Pie”. To hear the call of the green frog click here.