Southern Leopard Frog

Photo by Jeff Hall

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Scientific Name: Rana sphenocephala

Classification: Nongame species

Abundance: Abundant (blue)

Species Profile (PDF)


Southern leopard frog photo (Photo by Jodie Owen)


The call of the southern leopard frog has been compared to the sound of rubbing an inflated balloon.

This attractive frog is named for its spots, which are reminiscent of the big cat. The southern leopard frog is sometimes confused with the closely related pickerel frog (Lithobates palustris), which is distinguished by its more squarish spots and bright orange or yellow coloration on the concealed surfaces of its thighs. The two species can also be distinguished by their calls.

An adult leopard frog’s dorsal coloration is normally brown and/or green, with scattered dark brown, roundish spots. Adult frogs also have two prominent yellow or gold dorsolateral folds extending the full length of the body. There is a small white spot in the center of the tympanum, or eardrum. The belly is usually plain white. Leopard frogs have long, powerful hind legs and webbed hind feet. The head is relatively long and pointed, and the skin is smooth and moist. Males have paired vocal sacs, which resemble small balloons on either side of the throat when the frog is calling. The call is usually a series of guttural croaks followed by a clucking or chuckling trill, which some people compare to the sound produced by rubbing an inflated balloon.
Learn more by reading the Southern Leopard Frog species profile.

The southern leopard 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.