Appalachian wood frogs in and around Asheville, NC

Appalachian wood frog I Photo courtesy of Smoky Mountain Living Magazine

DYK frogs celebrate Valentine’s Day? 🐸 I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek, but Feb. 14 does fall around the same time that our own Appalachian wood frogs start coming out to mate — something they generally only do once in their three to five year lifespan.

The only North American frog found north of the Arctic Circle, these small amphibians are about three to four inches long and range from dark brown to greenish copper in color. In addition to two ridges on their backs, their eyes are covered with a black “Lone Ranger” mask. Commonly found throughout the country in forests from Alaska to Appalachia, they’re among the first species to emerge in the late winter/early spring and begin the mating season and the last to retire in the fall. 

Besides the fact that they sound a lot like some of my old roommates, what I find especially interesting about these frogs is that they rouse from being at least partially frozen to mate. Unlike most other frogs, which hibernate by burrowing into the ground, the zombie-like Appalachian wood frogs crawl beneath leaves, where they can freeze solid without dying. Through a complex process, their bodies produce a natural antifreeze before going into hibernation that increases their glucose levels, which allows ice to form in their blood as much as 65% of which can freeze — in a way that doesn’t damage or kill them. When temps start warming up, they thaw out and set about their business. 

Speaking of which, during the breeding season, males can be heard making a cacophonously calling females with quack-like calls. Females lay up to 3,000 eggs, which hatch between nine and 30 days later. This is actually what really piqued my interest in them — much like babies + children, these little critters sure can make a big noise

Ever heard them? Thanks to a recent post from u/alpacamama over on the Asheville sub-Reddit, you can see some Appalachian wood frogs frolicking together in Weaverville. Check them out below, and be sure to turn the sound up:

Appalachian tree frogs mate 1 week a year…this is the week! from asheville