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Frogs in South Dakota

There are 12 types of frogs in South Dakota. The state is home to twelve (12) anuran species: seven (7) species of frogs and five (5) species of toads. This article lists each species of toad and frog in South Dakota and some characteristics of its adults.

Some general anuran characteristics and differences will be discussed briefly. Frogs generally have smooth and moist skin with more slender bodies. They also possess long legs for jumping and leaping.

Toads are however stockier in appearance. They have dry and rough skin full of poisonous warts for protecting them against predation. They also have short chubby limbs for walking and hopping.

Both frogs and toads are colored to blend into their environments so as to avoid being seen by predators. This is called cryptic adaptation. This adaptive coloration is evident both dorsally and ventrally.

Dorsally, they are usually colored green to match vegetation, or in earth tones to match the ground. Terrestrial predators are thus avoided. To avoid aquatic predators, ventral surface is white to blend with the color of the light entering the water.

Anurans are also cryptically adapted with widely spaced eyes for wide vision and external eardrums (tympana) to sense vibrations. Some species secrete poisons for their defense. These include all toads and some frogs.

Warts on toads’ skins and their parotid glands produce and store these toxins to release in case of attacks. Frogs usually leap away or use some other form of defense, and most frog species are not poisonous.

Anurans are primarily insectivorous although some larger ones may eat smaller frogs and conspecifics (frogs of their own species). In turn, they are eaten by small mammals, birds, otters, fish, larger anurans and reptiles, and humans.

In this article, you will find the following information on the species of toads and frogs in South Dakota: geographic range, habitat, physical description, behavior, mating calls, and additional anti-predator techniques.

Species of Frogs in South Dakota

1. American Bullfrog

American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) in water standing on grass in Lincoln County, South Dakota, USA
American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) in water standing on grass in Lincoln County, South Dakota, USA. – Source
  • Family: Ranidae
  • Scientific Name: Lithobates catesbeianus
  • Other Names: Rana catesbeiana, bullfrog, North American bullfrog
  • Adult Size: 9 to 15.2 cm (3.5 to 6 in)
  • Lifespan: 7 to 9 years in the wild, up to 16 years in captivity

The American bullfrog is a large frog native to eastern North America. It has been introduced to other continents such as Europe, Asia, and South America. It is highly aquatic and so it is usually found around bodies of water.

Common habitats conducive for this frog include swamps, ponds, marshes, ditches, rivers, and streams with abundant vegetation. Individuals can be found along the banks of streams too. The species prefers still, shallow water.

The American bullfrog is the largest species of true frog in North America. Dorsally, the frogs could be colored in any shade from brown to green, with darker colored blotches present. They have fully webbed hind legs and white bellies.

Sexual dimorphism exists between the sexes. This is evident in throat coloration and tympanum size. In males, the external ear is much larger in size than the eye. Their throats are yellow in the breeding season.

In females, the eye and external ear are relatively the same size, but the ear may be smaller in size. Also, the female has white throats during the reproductive season. The call of males has been described as a low rumbling “jug-o-rum”.

The frogs are active both during the day and at night but they prefer warm, humid weather. They eat conspecifics and even endanger some other species of frogs. Humans hunt them but other predators do not because they have bad taste.

2. Blanchard’s Cricket Frog

Blanchard's Cricket Frog (Acris blanchardi) on dry gravel in Lincoln County, South Dakota, USA
Blanchard’s Cricket Frog (Acris blanchardi) on dry gravel in Lincoln County, South Dakota, USA. – Source
  • Family: Hylidae
  • Scientific Name: Acris blanchardi
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 1.5 to 3.8 in (0.6 to 1.5 in)
  • Lifespan: 4 months in the wild

Blanchard’s cricket frogs are another species of frogs in South Dakota. These small frogs live in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. They can be found in Michigan, Texas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Iowa.

They live at the edges of permanent water bodies like ponds, lakes, bogs, rivers, and slow-moving streams. They can also make use of temporary water sources around permanent ones. They prefer open spaces and unpolluted water.

The backs of the frogs are usually tan, gray, brown, or olive green in color with warts on them. Blotches in red, green, or black may be noticed as well. They possess a broad mid-dorsal stripe in red, green, tan, or brown pigment.

The dorsal skin of Blanchard’s cricket frogs is moist, while their ventral skin is white and granular. Most individuals have a dark triangular protrusion on their heads, located between their eyes.

These frogs have fully webbed hindlegs with small toe pads. Dark bars may be noticed on the jaw of a frog of this species. A dark and ragged stripe may also be seen on the thighs of most of them.

Their call resembles the sound made by hitting two marbles or stones together. It is a metallic “gick, gick, gick” sound. They are both diurnal and nocturnal, but they significantly reduce their activity in colder weather.

3. Boreal Chorus Frog

Boreal Chorus Frog (Pseudacris maculata) in water on sticks and leaves in Harrisburg, South Dakota, USA
Boreal Chorus Frog (Pseudacris maculata) in water on sticks and leaves in Harrisburg, South Dakota, USA. – Source
  • Family: Hylidae
  • Scientific Name: Pseudacris maculata
  • Other Names: Pseudacris triseriata maculata 
  • Adult Size: 3 to 3.8 cm (1.18 to 1.5 in)
  • Lifespan: 2 to 3 years, record longevity of 6 years

The boreal chorus frog is widely distributed across Canada and the USA. It resides in the Canadian regions of Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba. In the US, it is found in New Mexico, Montana, Utah, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Arizona.

They prefer to inhabit open spaces and forests with open canopies. Provided there is enough vegetation for cover and insulation and food in the form of insects present, frogs of this species reside in the area comfortably.

Habitats that they occur in include grasslands, streams in marshy areas, roadside ditches, splash pools, beaver ponds, swamps, shallow lakes, flooded fields, and around other freshwater sources without fish.

Boreal chorus frogs are small in size with smooth, moist skin. Their dorsal color is any shade from greenish gray to brown. Usually, three stripes are seen on their dorsum in a darker pigment than their dorsal color, and these may be broken.

From each eye to the groin, there is a dark stripe on the back. A dark triangular pattern may also be seen on the head of some boreal chorus frogs, between their eyes. A white stripe usually runs across their upper lip.

Their bellies are brightly colored, typically white, yellowish, or cream, and there may be dark spotting on their chests and throats. They have long toes and small toe pads for climbing. Their feet are webbed and their snouts are pointed.

The call of a boreal chorus frog is a loud chirp-like sound likened to the sound of drawing a finger down a comb’s teeth. It is a short sound and it may be repeated 30-70 times per minute.

The frog is diurnal, nocturnal, and crepuscular, showing activity at any time of day. Weather and temperature affect its activity levels, as it shows more diurnal activity in cooler months. More nocturnal and crepuscular activity is seen in the hotter parts of the year.

4. Cope’s Gray Tree Frog

Cope's Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis) on moist dirt in Clay County, South Dakota, USA
Cope’s Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis) on moist dirt in Clay County, South Dakota, USA. – Source
  • Family: Hylidae 
  • Scientific Name: Hyla chrysoscelis 
  • Other Names: Southern gray tree frog 
  • Adult Size: 3.2 to 6 cm (1.26 to 3.26 in)
  • Lifespan: 2.5 to 7 years in captivity

Cope’s gray tree frogs are native to North America, inhabiting Canada and the USA. In Canada, they are found in Ontario. In the USA, they reside in states like Texas and Florida.

Frogs of this species can be found around both temporary and permanent water bodies. They live around swamps, ponds, lakes, mixed or deciduous forests, and other sources of freshwater.

Cope’s gray tree frogs show no sexual dimorphism. A white mark is visible underneath each eye. Their bodies are quite rough and warty, rougher than the average frog but smoother than the bodies of most toads.

Dorsally, frogs come in several colors. The coloration of a particular individual is affected by substrate, humidity, and season. They are most commonly colored gray, but there are some individuals in green and brown.

There are black blotches or splotches on their dorsal surface. Cope’s gray tree frogs have adhesive toe pads which are to aid the frogs in climbing. They are nocturnal frogs with a high tolerance for freezing temperatures.

The mating call of the males is a fast high-pitched trill that sounds like a flute. Some larger frog species have been observed as predators of Cope’s gray tree frogs. This is because they are small in size.

5. Northern Leopard Frog

Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens) on mud in Canton, South Dakota, USA
Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens) on mud in Canton, South Dakota, USA. – Source
  • Family: Ranidae
  • Scientific Name: Lithobates pipiens
  • Other Names: Rana pipiens, grass frog, meadow frog
  • Adult Size: 5 to 11.5 cm (1.97 to 4.37 in)
  • Lifespan: up to 9 years in the wild

The northern leopard frog is native to North America. It is found in Canada and the USA. Other states and regions that house this frog are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and British Columbia.

Individuals are found in many different types of habitats, including marshlands, brushlands, and forests. They prefer to live along still or slow-moving water with vegetation and open space or open canopy.

Northern leopard frogs are medium-sized. Their dorsal color is usually green or greenish brown. There are also brown round spots arranged on their backs, sides, and legs. The nature of this spotting resembles that of a leopard’s skin.

A distinct white fold runs down their backs. This dorsolateral fold extends from each of their eyes. From each of their nostrils to each shoulder, a white line is seen on individuals, running across their mouths.

Ventrally, this species is typically colored white or greenish white. Males are generally smaller than females, with dark and thickened or keratinizes thumb pads for gripping females while mating. They also possess paired vocal sacs.

Northern leopard frogs are nocturnal. Their calls sound like a low and rumbling snore with clicks and croaks occasionally heard in between the snore-like sound. When they are threatened, they hop away while squawking or screaming.

They also employ mimicry by occurring with pickerel frogs, mimicking them, and taking advantage of the resemblance to avoid predation. They do so because pickerel frogs secrete poisons that are harmful to their attackers and so deter them.

6. Plains Leopard Frog

Plains Leopard Frog (Lithobates blairi) in muddy water in Charles Mix County, South Dakota, USA
Plains Leopard Frog (Lithobates blairi) in muddy water in Charles Mix County, South Dakota, USA. – Source
  • Family: Ranidae
  • Scientific Name: Lithobates blairi
  • Other Names: Rana blairi, Blair’s leopard frog
  • Adult Size: 5.1 to 9.5 cm (2 to 3.75 in)
  • Lifespan: up to 9 years in the wild (only 5% of the population)

Plains leopard frogs are another species of frogs in South Dakota. They are found in New Mexico, Indiana, Colorado, Illinois, Arizona, and Oklahoma. They live in dry plains and prairies but are also found at the edge of ponds and streams.

Frogs of this species are usually stocky and chubby. The dominant dorsal color in these frogs is brown and there is a distinct light line along their upper jaw. They have lateral folds on their dorsum that stop just before the groin.

A dark spot can be seen on the snout of a plains leopard frog. Another spot, a light one, may be seen in the center of its external ear. The tympanum on this frog may be the same size as or slightly larger than its eye.

Its groin and the area under its thighs are yellow in color. The area around its cloaca is covered in tubercles. This species is threatened by loss of habitat and the predation of bullfrogs in some states.

The call of a Plain’s leopard frog is a series of 2 or 3 distinct and snore-like clucking sounds. The call has a 3-second pulse rate. Plains leopard frogs are usually active on rainy nights.

7. Wood Frog

Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) on dry leaves and moist ground in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) on dry leaves and moist ground in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, USA. – Source
  • Family: Ranidae
  • Scientific Name: Lithobates sylvaticus
  • Other Names: Rana sylvatica, the frog with the robber‘s mask
  • Adult Size: 3.5 to 7 cm (1.38 to 2.76 in), record SVL of 8.3 cm (3.27 in)
  • Lifespan: 0 to 3 years in the wild, up to 5 years

The wood frog is commonly distributed across and native to North America. It is found in Georgia, Alabama, Alaska, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Wyoming. It is the most widespread amphibian species in North America.

This frog spends most of its time on the ground or around trees. It can be identified by the mask-like markings across its eyes. A black patch is also visible from each eardrum to the base of each of its forelegs.

A white outline can be noticed across the wood frog’s upper lip. Its dorsal coloration could be any shade of gray, green, brown, tan, or rust. It has a lateral mid-dorsal fold, usually bright yellow-brown in color. Ventrally, the frog is white.

Females are more brightly colored and bigger in size than males. Males are smaller, with the ventral part of their legs colorful. On the other hand, the females have white bellies that fade to a yellow-orange pallor towards the legs.

Wood frogs are diurnal, actively foraging during the day. Their calls sound like the quacking of a duck or the squawking of a chicken.

They produce toxins to irritate their predators and use an alarm call to startle and annoy them.

Species of Toads in South Dakota

8. American Toad

American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus) walking through yellow leaves and gravel at Big Sioux Recreational Area, South Dakota, USA
American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus) walking through yellow leaves and gravel at Big Sioux Recreational Area, South Dakota, USA. – Source
  • Family: Bufonidae
  • Scientific Name: Anaxyrus americanus
  • Other Names: Bufo americanus, hop toad, east American toad
  • Adult Size: 5 to 10 cm (1.97 to 4 in), average 7.5 cm (2.95 in)
  • Lifespan: 1 to 10 years in the wild, up to 36 years in captivity

The American toad is easily the most common toad in North America. It can be found in places across Canada, Mexico, and the eastern part of the United States. It inhabits rainforests, streams, ponds, and even backyards.

These toads may be found living comfortably almost anywhere within this region, as long as there is a body of semi-permanent water for them to breed in and thickset vegetation to cover them when they hunt prey.

American toads are stout, with yellow or red warts on their skin. Their dorsal skin is thick, with each individual colored differently. Possible colors include olive green, gray, reddish brown, and tan, and the color could be solid or include patterns.

They have short legs, and their wart patterns are different from those of other toads. Their backs are littered with dark spots, with each spot having one or two warts. Female and male toads of this species are easily distinguishable.

The male toads of this species have longer throats and overall darker skin. Their female conspecifics on the other hand possess shorter throats and are generally lighter skinned. Also, the females are larger in size than the males.

American toads are nocturnal, showing more activity at night than in the daytime. They hide under rocks, stones, twigs, and other such things in the daytime. However, they prefer to be active in warm and humid weather.

The advertisement call of a male is a long, high-pitched, and neat-sounding trill, a musical bu-r-r-r-r-r-r that can last up to 30 seconds. The poisonous secretion they produce for defense causes harm if ingested or if it gets into the eyes.

9. Canadian Toad

Canadian Toad (Anaxyrus hemiophrys) on wet greens in Hamlin County, South Dakota, USA
Canadian Toad (Anaxyrus hemiophrys) on wet greens in Hamlin County, South Dakota, USA. – Source
  • Family: Bufonidae
  • Scientific Name: Anaxyrus hemiophrys
  • Other Names: Dakota toad
  • Adult Size: 3.7 to 8.3 cm (1.5 to 3.25 in), 7.5 cm (3 in) on average
  • Lifespan: N/A

The Canadian toad is endemic to Canada and the United States. It lives in the states and provinces of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.

Individual toads can be found living in areas with little to no vegetation. Habitats of residence include aspen parklands, boreal forests, grasslands, lakes, ponds, potholes, streams, and other regions with soft soil.

They resemble American toads in appearance. Dorsally, they are colored in several shades of tan, brown, gray, or pale green. Along the middle of the toads’ backs runs a narrow pale or white line.

Small to medium-sized spots dot the dorsal skin of the Canadian toad. Each of these dark spots has one or two large brown or red-orange warts on it. The ventral surface is white and mottled with black spots.

A boss, which is a raised and bony structure, is found between the eyes of this species. It is formed by the fusion of the cranial crests. The kidney-shaped or round parotid glands do not touch this boss.

Some dimorphism exists between the sexes. Males have dark nuptial pads on the first and second digits of their front legs for grasping females in amplexus. While they have dark throats, females have pale throats and lack nuptial pads.

Canadian toads are both diurnal and nocturnal, active on warm nights but primarily showing daytime activity. Males use a trilling sound as an advertisement call. It is harsher than that of American toads, lasting 3 to 6 seconds in length.

In addition to the toxins they produce from the parotid glands in their necks, they ward off or startle predators using a loud alarm call. Also, they inflate their bodies to make themselves hard to swallow or play dead when in danger.

10. Great Plains Toad

Great Plains Toad (Anaxyrus cognatus) on dark rocky ground in Clay County, South Dakota, USA
Great Plains Toad (Anaxyrus cognatus) on dark rocky ground in Clay County, South Dakota, USA. – Source
  • Family: Bufonidae
  • Scientific Name: Anaxyrus cognatus
  • Other Names: Bufo cognatus
  • Adult Size: 4.8 to 11.4 cm (1.9 to 4.5 in)
  • Lifespan: up to 10.7 years in captivity

Toads of this species can be found from the southwest region of Manitoba, Canada to central US states like Utah and California, and down to Mexican states like Durango and Chihuahua.

They can be found in damp sections of grasslands and arid areas. They live in temperate areas, able to live in deserts, savannahs, temporary rain pools, reservoirs, and floodplains of rivers.

These toads are average or medium-sized, with small heads and well-developed cranial crests. They have blunt, rounded snouts. There are large dark blotches on their backs bordered in lighter colors.

Each blotch has many warts on it, making the skin rough. Dorsally, great plains toads are usually yellowish, greenish, brown, or gray in color. They may have a light and narrow stripe running down their backs.

Ventral coloration is cream to white and this venter is without spots or mottling. The toads are primarily nocturnal but sometimes show activity in the daytime. Their call is a high-pitched trill, mechanical and compelling.

11. Plains Spadefoot

Plains Spadefoot (Spea bombifrons) on dark gravel in Saint Charles, South Dakota, USA
Plains Spadefoot (Spea bombifrons) on dark gravel in Saint Charles, South Dakota, USA. – Source
  • Family: Scaphiopodidae
  • Scientific Name: Spea bombifrons
  • Other Names: American spadefoot, European spadefoot, Plains spadefoot toad
  • Adult Size: 3.8 to 6.35 cm (1.5 to 2.5 in), record SVL 6.5 cm (2.56 in)
  • Lifespan: up to 13 years

Plains spadefoots range from southern Canada through the United States and into northern Mexico. These toads can be found in Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.

They prefer to live in grasslands with loose soil. This is because they like to burrow into the ground, like other spadefoot toads, so areas with loose soil are conducive and easy enough to burrow into.

On the head of an individual of this species, a pronounced round protuberance is noticed between the eyes. The dorsal skin of the toad could be brown or gray in color with a greenish tinge.

Four vague longitudinal stripes are present on the backs of some of these toads. Their warts could be yellow or orange in color. However, the skin is moist and smoother than the skins of most toads, more like a frog’s skin.

Like on other spadefoot species, there is a single tubercle on the hindleg of a plain spadefoot. The tubercle is wedge-shaped and spade-like, an adaptation for burrowing. Their toes are webbed.

Plains spadefoots are nocturnal but show the most activity during the rains. This species is largely terrestrial. It is considered vulnerable, as it is quite common but individuals are rarely seen across its geographical range.

The call of this toad is short and sounds like a duck. It has two distinct calls; one is low-pitched and raspy like a snore, lasting for about one second. The other call is short, resonant, and bleat-like, lasting for about half a second.

12. Woodhouse’s Toad

Woodhouse's Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii) on light dirt in Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA
Woodhouse’s Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii) on light dirt in Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA. – Source
  • Family: Bufonidae
  • Scientific Name: Anaxyrus woodhousii 
  • Other Names: Bufo woodhousii, rocky mountain toad
  • Adult Size: 4.4 to 12.7 cm (1.75 to 5 in)
  • Lifespan: maximum longevity of 13 years

Woodhouse’s toads are found in several US states like Arizona, Louisiana, Idaho, Washington, Montana, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, California, and North Dakota. They also live in Mexico.

They occur in different habitats — temporary, permanent, and semi-permanent water bodies. They like to inhabit moist meadows, ponds, irrigation ditches, temporary pools, grasslands, farms, desert streams, and even golf courses.

Dorsally, they are usually colored gray, brown, olive, green, yellow-green, or yellow, with dark blotches on their dorsal skin. A white or whitish stripe runs from their snouts down their backs.

Ventrally, Woodhouse’s toads are a bright or whitish color like pale cream or beige, and individuals may have mottling on their bellies. Black and yellow marks can be noticed towards the groin area and underneath the thighs.

Toads of this species are large and have warts on their skin. They have prominent cranial crests. Sometimes, a protrusion touching the parotid glands can be seen between these cranial crests.

They are nocturnal but can be sometimes seen moving around in the daytime. Because they are not known to show much activity in the winter, they are believed to hibernate.

Their call sounds like the muted bleating of a sheep or a snore. It typically lasts 1 to 4 seconds.


Do frogs live in South Dakota?

Yes, frogs live in South Dakota. There are seven (7) species of frogs in South Dakota, including American bullfrogs, Blanchard’s cricket frogs, boreal chorus frogs, Cope’s gray tree frogs, northern leopard frogs, Plains leopard frogs, and wood frogs.

Are there bullfrogs in South Dakota?

Yes, there are bullfrogs living in the state of South Dakota.

What toads live in South Dakota?

Five (5) kinds of toads live in South Dakota. They are American toads, Canadian toads, Great Plains toads, Plains spadefoot toads, and Woodhouse’s toads.


There are five (5) species of toads and seven (7) species of frogs in South Dakota. This state is located in the midwestern region of the United States. It has really warm, clear summers and freezing cloudy winters.

Frogs and toads go through three stages of metamorphosis. They develop from eggs into larvae (tadpoles) and then into adults. In the tadpole stage, they are usually herbivorous.

They usually hibernate in the winter when it is very cold and some aestivate in the summer when it is very hot. These are preservation techniques involving the animal staying in rest or inactive state for long periods.

In the breeding season, males make use of advertisement calls to attract females. These females respond by meeting them at breeding pools, making a choice, and then mating with them.

Water is necessary for breeding as frogs and toads (except tailed frogs) show external fertilization. Eggs and sperm are released into the water and then fertilized there. Afterward, little or no parental investment is shown.

Frogs generally make good household pets because most species are not poisonous. On the other hand, all toads release toxins from their skin and their parotid glands, so they do not make great pets.

More frogs in other States

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