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Effects of Cold Weather on Breeding Amphibians

4-5-16 peeper on snow IMG_7453 With spring peepers (pictured) and wood frogs just coming into voice, and some salamanders also having recently emerged from hibernation, there is concern for their welfare due to the erratic weather we are having.  According to Jim Andrews, Director of the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas, the effects of this meteorological fluctuation depend on the exact climatic conditions experienced, as well as the species affected.

Wood frogs and spring peepers, as stated in a recent post, are well equipped to survive the cold weather.  However, egg-laying has already taken place in some locations and if the eggs are exposed to the air, as opposed to being attached to a submerged branch or vegetation, and it’s cold enough, long enough, they will freeze.

Many of the mole salamanders, including spotted, Jefferson, and blue-spotted, are in the middle of migrating to or from their annual breeding pools.  Faced with freezing temperatures, they retreat temporarily into the leaf litter and thawed soil beneath, a sheltered environment where they spend all of their life except the breeding season.  An extended period of cold that freezes the ground would pose problems for these creatures, although Andrews has witnessed the survival of a blue-spotted salamander that sought shelter under rocks that were on top of frozen ground.

Many factors are involved in the effects of this phenomenon  – how warm it was before the cold spell arrived (long enough for hibernating amphibians to emerge?), how low temperatures go, how long it remains cold, the species of frog or salamander, and where it is in its breeding cycle.  The peeping and quacking we briefly enjoyed has been silenced, but not permanently and hopefully not for very long.

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11 responses

  1. Lindsay Putnam

    I am wondering what happens if the air breathing amphibians are trapped under the ice for several days?

    April 5, 2016 at 7:53 am

    • Lindsay, According to Jim Andrews, any amphibians already in the ponds and below the ice should survive.

      April 5, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      • Lindsay Putnam

        Good to know, and thank you!

        April 5, 2016 at 9:25 pm

  2. Kathie Fiveash

    Mary, do you have any tips on how to see a spring peeper? It drives me crazy that they are singing all around me and I NEVER can see one.

    April 5, 2016 at 10:54 am

    • Not really! I go out , they stop calling, I sit down and wait for what seems like forever, and with a flashlight and a lot of patience, sometimes can locate one. They love being under vegetation, but will sometimes climb up the stem of a plant in the water, where you have a decent chance of seeing them. The inflation of their vocal sac is what I usually notice first, as the movement catches my eye. You could try triangulation, with one or two other people equipped with flashlights pointing to the same calling frog — where the beams intersect, voila! (It’s not quite as easy as it sounds.)

      April 5, 2016 at 12:09 pm

  3. Mark Dindorf

    Hi Mary,

    I’ve enjoyed subscribing to your blog and the timely relevance of your posts. The topic of today’s post was on my mind since we live adjacent to a vernal marsh and had just begun to hear the wood frogs on the warm days last week. I was out taking pictures yesterday after the light April snowstorm we received and I came across a possible “mystery photo” subject for you. I’ll attach a few pictures. I’m tempted to try to stump you, as you often do to your readers, but perhaps I’ll tell you what they are in a separate email. Feel free to use any of these pictures if you think your readers might find them of interest.

    Regards, Mark Dindorf Hart’s Location, NH (Crawford Notch)

    April 5, 2016 at 1:30 pm

  4. I also worry about the buds and plants that have emerged, I fear they are toast in this 12degree weather!

    April 5, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    • I know — I found Trailing Arbutus in flower last weekend!

      April 5, 2016 at 9:38 pm

  5. mariagianferrari

    Love reading your blog every day!! 🙂

    April 5, 2016 at 2:31 pm

  6. Alice Pratt

    The sun melted so much snow, fairly quickly today, here in Hanover MA, (South Shore) ….I sure hope that the already laid eggies will survive…😳😕…..so much to be concerned about in the natural world.

    April 5, 2016 at 8:05 pm

  7. Pingback: 20160406,07,08 Winter’s end! (?) | Brtthome's Blog

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