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Two finds in one day include rare leopard frog

Rick Koval /for the times leader

They look as if they were painted by hand.

The rare Northern leopard frog and its cousin, the pickerel frog, are both so vividly colored that they look as if they belong in a tropical rain forest.

Rick Koval and I were fortunate to find two in the same day for our herp search. The pickerel frog was relatively easy to locate, but the leopard frog took some work mainly because it’s very rare and declining throughout the country.

“Statewide there are only a few sites with a population and Luzerne County has four or five locations,” said Koval, a naturalist with the North Branch Land Trust. “I think they’re taking advantage of the Susquehanna River Basin.”

The leopard frog, with its green body covered with black oval spots, relies on its camouflage to avoid predators in its aquatic home.

And if the camouflage fails, the leopard frog relies on its great leaping ability to avoid danger.

Koval said a full-grown leopard frog can even out-jump the mighty bullfrog, which is a feat.

“That makes them almost impossible to catch,” he said.

While the pickerel frog is no slouch in the jumping department, it relies on another defense mechanism to avoid predators – its skin.

Specifically, the pickerel frog’s skin glands emit a toxin that is poisonous to other animals. It’s potent enough to deter snakes, fish and furbearers such as mink, but the toxin isn’t a concern if you handle a pickerel frog.

What we’re looking for

Species: Pickerel frog (above, left) and Northern leopard frog (above, right)

Located: Rice and Conyngham townships

Status: Pickerel frog – common; leopard frog – rare, species of special concern

Size: Two to five inches (pickerel frog is slightly smaller)

Eggs: Pickerel frog – eggs contained in a gold-colored cluster; leopard frog – egg cluster is small and gray

Food source: Insects

Habitat: Pickerel frog – wetlands, ponds, lakes; leopard frog – wetlands with plenty of marsh and weedy vegetation

Call: Koval describes the call of both frogs as sounding like someone snoring underwater. The Pickerel frog calls from April to June while the leopard frog, which is an early breeder, calls from March to April.

Fact: At first glance the pickerel and leopard frogs look similar and they are often confused with each other. Here’s how to tell them apart: The pickerel frog has a yellow/orange tint under its hind legs and its back has rows of paired rectangular blotches; the underside of a leopard frog is white, its back has a green tint and covered with scattered oval blotches.

To view video of the pickerel and leopard frogs, visit www.timesleader.com

Frogs

Found

• American toad

• Green frog

• Wood frog

• Spring peeper

• Gray tree frog

• Northern Cricket frog

• Pickerel frog

• Northern leopard frog

Needed

• Fowler’s toad

• Bullfrog

Salamanders

Found

• Red-spotted newt

• Spotted salamander

• Northern two-lined salamander

• Northern red salamander

• Red-backed salamander

• Northern slimy salamander

• Northern spring salamander

• Jefferson salamander

Needed

• Marbled salamander

• Northern dusky salamander

• Mountain dusky salamander

• Long-tailed salamander

• Four-toed salamander

Turtles

Found

• Spotted turtle

• Wood turtle

• Eastern box turtle

• Eastern painted turtle

• Common map turtle

• Snapping turtle

Needed

• Musk turtle

Lizards

Needed

• Five-lined skink

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