North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Carpenter Frog

Scientific Name: Rana virgatipes
Classification: Nongame species
Abundance: Abundant (blue)


Photo by Jeff Hall










The carpenter frog looks somewhat like a small bullfrog but may be distinguished by the presence of four buff, reddish-brown or yellowish-brown stripes two on the back and one of each side on a mottled greenish or brownish background. It has dark stripes on the rear of each thigh and usually dark mottling on its belly and sides. It does not have ridges running along its side like many other members of the Ranidae family.

Carpenter frogs are found in the Coastal Plain and are more often heard than seen. They are among the most aquatic native frogs found in North Carolina, seldom venturing far from water. Habitats include pine savanna ponds, bogs, beaver swamps, Carolina bays, seeps, pocosins (shrub bogs) and ditches. They are found most often in tea-colored, relatively acidic waters with abundant sphagnum or other vegetation and are sometimes called "sphagnum frogs."

Carpenter frogs call in late winter, spring and summer. Several hundred eggs are deposited in a flattened cluster. The tadpoles take about a year to transform and are highly acid tolerant. Larger tadpoles have a distinct dotted or dashed line in their dorsal tail fins and may also have tiny, scattered black dots like those of bullfrogs. Male carpenter frogs are highly terretorial and defend their territories from other males using physical interactions (wrestling) and vocalizations.

The carpenter frog is classified as a nongame species with no open season. It is unlawful for any person to take, or have in possession, any nongame mammal or bird unless that person has a collection license or is collecting fewer than 5 reptiles or fewer than 25 amphibians that are not endangered, threatened, or special concerned species.

There are no reported problems with this species. 

Frogs and toads can be monitored fairly easily in a variety of ways. One way is through frog call monitoring. The North Carolina Calling Amphibian Survey Program attempts to do just that by corralling data collected by volunteers across the state that monitors specific frog call routes. Each species of frog and toad has a unique call that is distinguishable from others.  Some are more difficult for humans to separate than others, but the frogs know who’s who!  Learn your frog calls, and you too can distinguish who’s calling in the ponds.  Another way to monitor frogs and toads is by looking for egg masses deposited in wetlands and/or by looking for tadpoles in those same wetlands. Different frogs breed at different times of the year, so when to look for eggs is dependent on the species of interest. Eggs typically hatch within a couple weeks of being deposited, so there is a fairly short window for detection. Frog eggs can sometimes be identified to family, but are somewhat tricky to identify to species level.  Tadpole identification can be similarly tricky, so learning and listening to frog calls is definitely the easiest method for determining what frogs and toads are using a wetland. Tadpoles are a little easier to monitor, as most species have tadpoles present in wetlands for longer periods of time. This is, again, variable by species.  Most species have tadpole stages that last at least several months, but the range in timing for different species is everything from a couple of weeks to several years.  The smaller frog and toad species tend to have shorter tadpole cycles, while the larger frogs and toads tend to have longer times to metamorphosis.