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Photo taken in Chippewa County by Steve Price and Dave Marks

19 August 2002

Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris)

The pickerel frog is a medium-sized ranid (true frog) that can be identified by its angular brown spots, which often run in two rows along its back. It also has a light line running along the upper lip and a bright yellow groin area. The general appearance and the call of the pickerel frog are very similar to the northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens pipiens). Northern leopard frogs usually have light-bordered circular spots and lack the yellow in the groin. The call of the pickerel frog is low, snore-like croak, similar to the northern leopard frog call, but shorter and with less carrying power. Pickerel frogs are known to sometimes call underwater.

The pickerel frog is the rarest ranid in Wisconsin. Most records for this species are in the western part of the state; only a few records exist in northeastern Wisconsin. This rarity may be due to somewhat picky habitat preferences, which include the clear, cool waters of streams, bogs, and spring-fed ponds. Polluted and stagnant waters are usually avoided. Pickerel frogs are much more abundant in the northeastern United States than in the Great Lakes region.

Pickerel frogs have an irritating skin secretion that makes them unappetizing to some predators. Frogs kept in the same container as pickerel frogs may die for these skin secretions and many snake species refuse to eat this species. However, the pickerel frog may have gotten its name from the popularity of it as bait for fish of the Pickerel family, which implies that some predators find it appetizing.


Harding, J. H. 1997. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. The University of Michigan Press. 378 pp.

Contant, R., and Collins, J. T. 1998. Reptiles and Amphibians Eastern/Central North America, Third Edition, Expanded. Houghton Mifflin Co. p 616.

Text contributed by UW Green Bay graduate student Steve Price

© 2001-2004 The Cofrin Center for Biodiversity and the University of Wisconsin Green Bay, All Rights Reserved
Last updated on May 12, 2014