Saturday, May 21, 2011
Gray Tree Frog
The ones I find near the house are usually gray, and the ones I see out in the grassy areas are green. Those found near unnatural objects or if found dead they will most likely be gray in color. They have a bright yellow patch on their hind legs. These frogs should not be confused with another native frog called the "green tree frog (Hyla cinerea)". It is also green in color, but this frog is medium-sized, up to 6 cm (2.5 in) long. Their bodies are usually green in shades ranging from bright yellowish olive to lime green. The darkness of the color can change depending on lighting or temperature. There may be small patches of gold or white on the skin, and they may also have a white, pale yellow, or cream-colored line running from the jaw or upper lip to the groin. They have smooth skin and large toe pads. The abdomen is pale yellow to white. Males have wrinkled throats (indicating the vocal sac) and are slightly smaller than females.
This arboreal species is native to almost all of the Eastern, and Northeastern United States and part of Southeastern Canada. Males begin singing for mates in May and continue calling for several weeks. I began hearing them call about 2 weeks ago. The calling is still somewhat sporadic and hasn't reached its crescendo as of yet. It could be because of the erratic weather we've been having. Daytime temps in the 90's, then in the 50's. Overnight lows from 70 down to around 38. Crazy Missouri weather....trust me if you don't like the weather wait a day, it WILL change.I'm sure all this fluctuation has them confused....Do we wake up? Do we sleep? Do we mate? Do we sing? Do we sleep? Eventually our weather will straighten out and then the super hot humid weather of summer will be here. It is at this time I see the tree frogs everywhere. They are most commonly active in the evening and at night. I find them in birdhouses, under the shutter of my home, in the gutters and clinging to the side of the house.
In Missouri the gray tree frog is found statewide and are the most commonly encountered tree frog throughout its range. They will be active all spring, summer and fall. When the night temperatures begin falling they will burrow into the soil and become dormant all winter, in a type of hibernation. Gray tree frogs do not have to burying themselves below the frost line as their "blood" is made up of a type of antifreeze called plasma glycerol. This substance prevents damage to tissues. Frogs are extremely sensitive to pollution and as such are considered indicator species. Areas with high pollution will have no frogs or very few frogs. Oxygen is breathed through their skin therefore any pollutants in the water or air will also be breathed in at alarming rates. We've all heard stories of frogs with more than two eyes, or numerous spare body parts. These mutant frogs have been heavily exposed to some kind of pollutant.
Frogs benefit humans in many ways, one of which is by being the indicator species they are. This gives us humans a "heads-up" as to what is going on in the environment, and hopefully gives us time to rectify any problems that are occurring. They also eat numerous insects, especially pesky mosquitoes and night flying moths.
I remember my husband always telling me to not handle these frogs because they are poisonous. He would insist it was true as that is what his grandpa told him, and if grandpa said it, it MUST BE TRUE! I would assure him the only way the frog was poisonous is if I suddenly decided to eat it, which of course I had no intention of doing. I also told him the frog is in more danger of being damaged by the oils or secretions on my hand, than I am in being poisoned by handling it. It never ceases to amaze me though, how rumors, myths and old wives tales run rampant in these parts.