Washington is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Its diverse ecosystems, including rainforests, estuaries, sand dunes, wetlands, marine waters, dry coniferous forests, and tide pools, make it home to a number of anuran species.
There are thirteen (13) species of toads and frogs in Washington. These include ten (10) frog species and three (3) toad species. This number is out of the 5000+ species of toads and frogs currently known in the world.
Frogs and toads are an important part of our environment, despite their small stature. They eat insects and other small invertebrates that grow up to be household and crop pests.
In turn, they provide food to larger animals up the food chain.
This article lists out the types of toads and frogs in Washington, focusing on the adults, alongside some of their characteristics and behaviors. Some common traits of frogs and toads, and even differences between them, can also be found below, so keep reading.
Anurans are four-legged animals that live both on water and on land and do not have tails. They have widely spaced eyes for clear vision across a wide range. This makes up for their lack of internal ears.
They however have tympana (external ears) and prominent paratoid glands. Their dorsal skin is colored in a hue that matches their surroundings to make them blend in and avoid the attention of terrestrial attackers.
Their ventral skin is usually white or some pale color in order to avoid the attention of some aquatic predators. This is called cryptic adaptation to the environment, involving coloration. Some frogs can change their dorsal color too.
Frogs and toads have webbed feet, with four digits on their forelegs and five on their hindlegs. Toads however have generally shorter legs than frogs, and they walk or crawl. Frogs have longer legs for hopping and jumping.
Also, toads have dry, rough, and warty skin with stockier bodies. The skin of frogs is usually moist and smooth, with their bodies more slender than the bodies of toads.
Both are insectivorous, although some larger species like the bullfrog are large and opportunistic enough to eat smaller frogs and even conspecifics (other frogs of the same species).
Their common predators include fish, larger anurans, larger amphibians and reptiles, birds, raccoons, river otters, and sometimes humans. Toads produce toxins from their skin to ward off predators, while most frogs rely on their adaptive coloration and other techniques.
You will find below their biological families, scientific names, other common names, snout-vent length (SVL), longevity, geographic range, habitats, physical traits, behaviors, mating or advertisement calls, and additional anti-predator mechanisms.
Some of these species are either endangered or nearly endangered, while others are abundant. Still, we human beings must be more careful about how we treat our environment so as to take care of smaller animals and species.
Table of Contents
Species of Frogs in Washington
1. American Bullfrog
- 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 bullfrog is native to the eastern part of North America. However, it has been introduced to other places including Europe, Asia, and South America.
It is a largely aquatic species that can be found around still and shallow bodies of water.
Frogs of this species prefer to live around swamps, ponds, marshes, ditches, rivers, and streams with abundant vegetation. They can be found along the banks of streams as well.
This is the largest species of true frog existing in North America. They come in various dorsal colors, in different shades from brown to green, with darker colored blotches on their backs. Their hindlegs are fully webbed and their bellies are white.
Males and female frogs of this species show sexual dimorphism. In males, the tympanum is much larger than the eye, while the eye and external ear are relatively the same sizes, or the ear smaller in females.
Also, the males’ throats are yellow while the females’ throats are white during mating season.
These frogs are active both diurnal and nocturnal. They however prefer warm and humid weather. The time of day does not matter; if it is warm and rainy, bullfrogs are likely to be seen active.
Their call has been described as a low rumbling “jug-o-rum” sound. They eat smaller frogs and frogs of their own species.
Humans also hunt them as a source of frog legs but they face no threat of extinction. Their undesirable taste saves them from predation.
2. Cascades Frog
- Family: Ranidae
- Scientific Name: Rana cascadae
- Other Names: N/A
- Adult Size: 5 to 7.5 cm (1.97 to 2.95 in)
- Lifespan: up to 3 years in the wild
Cascade frogs occur in the Cascade Range, a mountain range in North America that cuts through parts of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California.
They are a near-threatened species, with populations declining due to pollution and ozone layer depletion. They like to live in shallow ponds, mountain meadows, forests, marshes, or small streams.
They are medium-sized frogs with gold eyes and long legs. They are usually brown, olive-brown, or olive dorsally. They have well-defined spots in darker pigment on their backs.
The underside of a cascade frog is a lighter color towards the groin and beneath the legs, with mottling around the groin.
This color could be yellow, yellow-orange, or a yellowish tan. The dorsal part of their legs is also spotted in black.
There is a fold on each side of this frog, running along its back. Its toes are not fully webbed and the thumbs are swollen and darkened in males. Females are slightly larger in size.
Cascades frogs are a diurnal species, showing more activity in the daytime. Their mating call is a series of rapid clucks or low-pitched chuckling, each lasting for half a second.
They move slowly but try to swim faster when they sense danger.
3. Coastal Tailed Frog
- Family: Ascaphidae/ Leiopelmatidae
- Scientific Name: Ascaphus truei
- Other Names: Pacific tailed frog, Western tailed frog
- Adult Size: 2.2 to 5.1 cm (0.87 to 2.01 in)
- Lifespan: 2 to 9 years in the wild, record longevity of 14 years
The coastal tailed frog is found in Canada and the USA, in places like British Columbia, California, Washington, and Oregon. There is a different distribution of this species in Idaho and Montana also.
Because they like to live in cold and fast-moving streams, they show some adaptations that are not common among anurans. They have smaller lungs and their toe tips are hard to help them crawl among rocks at the bottom of these streams.
They are small frogs whose dorsal colors are determined by the substrate. They could be tan, chocolate brown, or olive green, and their skin is usually full of bumps. Their toes are slightly webbed and their outer hind toes are flattened.
A coastal-tailed frog’s head is flattened and large in comparison to its body. Between its snout and eyes, there is a light triangular-shaped mark. It also possesses a dark stripe from the snout to each shoulder.
This species of frogs are not vocal, as they lack tympana. Unlike other anurans that show external fertilization, they show internal fertilization. For copulation, they have a short and tail-like organ, hence their name.
Males and females are different in that males are slightly smaller than females. Males also develop black horny pads on their thighs to grip females in the breeding season, in amplexus.
They are more diurnal than nocturnal. Coastal-tailed frogs do not communicate by calls. This is because they lack the tongues, vocal sacs, ear bones, and tympana that help them make sounds and sense vibrations.
4. Columbia Spotted Frog
- Family: Ranidae
- Scientific Name: Rana luteiventris
- Other Names: N/A
- Adult Size: 4.6 to 10 cm (1.81 to 2.94 in)
- Lifespan: 3 to 13 years in the wild
Another species of frog in Washington is the Columbia spotted frog. Other places in North America where they occur include Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon.
Preferred habitats for frogs of this species are still and slow-moving freshwater bodies. As a result of this preference, they are mostly found in ponds and lakes and along slow-moving streams.
A Columbia spotted frog is of average size. Its back could be tan, brown, or olive green in color. Dark and irregularly shaped spots are scattered across its back, legs, and sides. The underbelly of this frog is white, off-white, or yellow.
Along its upper lip is a yellowish or white line. It has a narrow snout, shorter legs, and webbed feet. It has rough dorsal folds on its skin.
It is a diurnal species of frog. Its call is low in pitch and sounds much like rapid knocking or clucking.
When threatened or attacked, it is able to startle its predator with an alarm call which is a 6-second shriek.
5. Green Frog
- Family: Ranidae
- Scientific Name: Lithobates clamitans
- Other Names: Rana clamitans, bronze frog, brown frog, cow frog
- Adult Size: 7.5 to 12.5 cm (2.95 to 4.92 in)
- Lifespan: up to 10 years in captivity
The green frog can be found along slow-moving streams and rivers. Individuals are typically found around water but they may move into meadows and wooded areas when the rains come.
The dorsal coloration of these frogs is mostly green, yellow-green, brown, brownish-green, or olive, with some rare blue ones. They have irregular dark spots on their backs, transverse bands on their legs, and yellow or white bellies.
Their toes are very webbed. Frogs of this species have quite large external ears. The tympana are much larger than the eye in males and the same size as the eye in females. Males can also be distinguished by their bright yellow throats.
Green frogs are mainly solitary. They are both nocturnal and diurnal.
Their mating call is a twang that sounds like a plucked banjo string. Other calls they use include aggressive calls, release calls, alert calls, and advertisement calls.
To avoid predators, these frogs employ their excellent vision. They quickly detect their attackers and run away. They sometimes employ mimicry by living around mink frogs, which they look like.
Mink frogs taste bad because they secrete foul-tasting liquid when eaten, but green frogs do not. In order to not be eaten by their hunters, they take advantage of this resemblance, occurring alongside mink frogs sometimes.
6. Northern Leopard Frog
- Family: Ranidae
- Scientific Name: Lithobates pipiens
- Other Names: Rana pipiens, grass frog, meadow frog
- Adult Size: 5 to 11.5 cm (1.97 to 4.5 in)
- Lifespan: up to 9 years in the wild
This true (ranid) frog species is native to regions of Canada and the United States.
It is common in Minnesota and Vermont and is their state amphibian. It is also found in Washington, Oregon, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada.
Northern leopard frogs like to live around permanent, slow-moving water with aquatic vegetation. They live in marshlands, brushlands, and forests. They move far from the water when it is not the breeding season, and they prefer open spaces to woodlands.
Individuals are typically colored green, greenish-brown, or yellow-green dorsally. They have smooth skin covered in large oval spots. Each spot is bordered by a halo of a lighter hue.
On their bellies, the color is usually white or cream. There are two distinct ridges on the back of the northern leopard frog, running along each side. Males are mostly smaller than females, possessing large thumb pads and dual vocal sacs.
They migrate to ponds during spring to breed and then leave for grasslands or meadows in the summer. They are more active at night when breeding and more active during the day when foraging.
The call of a northern leopard frog is a short snoring sound. In addition to insects and their larvae, this frog eats smaller frogs. It avoids its predators by leaping away quickly and blending into the vegetative environment.
These frogs avoid their predators by taking advantage of their likeness to pickerel frogs, living around them to avoid being eaten. This is because although northern leopard frogs are not poisonous, pickerel frogs are.
7. Oregon Spotted Frog
- Family: Ranidae
- Scientific Name: Rana pretiosa
- Other Names: N/A
- Adult Size: 4.5 to 10 cm (1.8 to 3.94 in)
- Lifespan: about 3 years
This aquatic frog species is native and endemic to the Pacific Northwest and the Cascade Mountains. These frogs are found in Canada and the USA. They have been listed as a vulnerable species, with populations decreasing.
Oregon spotted frogs live in wetlands, breed in shallow ponds with grasses, and hibernate in streams and springs. There are three localities of this frog in British Columbia, four in Washington, and about twenty-four in Oregon.
Dorsal coloration may likely be brown, reddish-brown, or red. This dorsal skin on the back and sides of the frog is covered in tubercles and bumps. There are large black spots on the back, legs, and sides as well.
The large dots are irregularly shaped, with edges indistinct and the middle of the dot colored lighter than these edges. Ventral coloration towards the groin and beneath the hindlegs is usually a reddish-orange or salmon colored.
This species of frog have relatively short hind legs. The toes of their hind legs are webbed extensively. There is a size disparity between the sexes, as females are much bigger than males.
Oregon spotted frogs are nocturnal. Their call is a series of 5 to 50 rapid notes that sound like tapping. They are a rare and vulnerable species probably due to urbanization, habitat alteration and loss, predators, introduced competitors, and drainage of habitat.
8. Pacific Chorus Frog
- Family: Hylidae
- Scientific Name: Pseudacris regilla
- Other Names: Northern Pacific tree frog, Pacific tree frog
- Adult Size: 1.9 to 5 cm (0.75 to 2 in)
- Lifespan: N/A
Pacific chorus frogs inhabit Mexico, Canada, and the US. They can be found in some US states other than Washington, such as Alaska, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah.
As their name suggests, they are found in the Pacific Northwest area of North America, but unlike the name may suggest, they live on land. They live in dense vegetation, especially around ponds, springs, swamps, streams, and several other damp places.
On the head of an individual of this species, a distinct Y-shaped mark is noticed, between the eyes. It has black spots on its dorsal skin and legs. Black stripes are also noticed, starting each one from the shoulder and through each of the eyes.
Although largely terrestrial, they are biologically adapted for climbing. The ends of their toes have sticky circular disks on them. Female frogs are larger than their male conspecifics.
Dorsally, each individual pacific chorus frog is colored differently from others and is colored in various hues itself. Coloration is however usually any shade from lime green to brown. Their skins can change shade depending on humidity and temperature.
They are nocturnal frogs. Their call is a deep and loud croak, a rapid “cree-creek”.
They can change color and this helps them camouflage from predators, but they cannot willingly change their dorsal coloration to match their surroundings.
9. Red-legged Frog
- Family: Ranidae
- Scientific Name: Rana aurora
- Other Names: Northern Red-legged Frog
- Adult Size: 5 to 13 cm (2 to 5.25 in)
- Lifespan: up to 15 years in captivity
Red-legged frogs are native to Oregon and California. There are also individuals in British Columbia, Canada, and in the foothills of the Cascades.
They occur around the banks of still or slow-moving ponds and streams. They like to have vegetation to provide cover for the frogs from predation, the heat of the sun, and the cold of winter.
There are two subspecies: Rana aurora aurora (Northern red-legged frog) and Rana aurora draytonii (California red-legged frog).
The dorsal color of this species is usually reddish brown or gray, with several undefined splotches on their backs in a darker color. There is a light stripe on their jaw and folds on their back and sides.
The ventral color is yellow, with streaks of red on the ventral part of the lower abdomen and back limbs. Their toes are not fully webbed. Differences exist between the subspecies.
The northern subspecies lack vocal sacs while the California species have paired vocal sacs. Northern red-legged frogs have smooth, thin, and unspotted skin. On the other hand, California red-legged frogs are bigger and have rougher skin with light-centered spots on it.
Differences exist between sexes as well. Females grow to a larger size than males do. Males have larger forearms and swollen thumbs.
They are diurnal frogs, showing the most activity in the daytime. As a response to an attack by a predator, these frogs flee into the water, swimming to its depths.
This serves as an anti-predator technique.
10. Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog
- Family: Ascaphidae/ Leiopelmatidae
- Scientific Name: Ascaphus montanus
- Other Names: N/A
- Adult Size: 3.8 to 5.7 cm (1.5 to 2.24 in)
- Lifespan: 7 or 8 years up to 15 to 20 years
The rocky mountain-tailed frog is endemic to the United States and Canada. It is native to Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Washington, and British Columbia. It is found in the Rocky Mountains and the Columbia Mountains.
This frog inhabits small, high-gradient, and fast-flowing mountain streams. It prefers permanent forested streams with clear, cold water, cobble or boulder substrate, and little silt.
Their bodies could be reddish brown, brown, or olive-gray with spots on them in yellow or gray. Their skin is a granulated texture and they have a dark stripe on each eye. Ventral color is cream, white, or a pinkish pallor.
Rocky mountain-tailed frogs lack external eardrums. Males have a tear-shaped organ, the “tail”, for copulation and internal fertilization of eggs. Only this species and coastal-tailed frogs fertilize their eggs internally.
They are nocturnal and most active in humid weather. When the weather is not humid, they remain underwater, hiding under rocks or debris.
Because they do not possess vocal sacs and do not vocalize, there are no mating calls in this species.
Species of Toads in Washington
11. Great Basin Spadefoot
- Family: Scaphiopodidae
- Scientific Name: Scaphiopus intermontana
- Other Names: Spea intermontana, Great Basin spadefoot toad
- Adult Size: 3.2 to 6.7 cm (1.26 to 2.64 in)
- Lifespan: 11 to 13 years in the wild
Great Basin spadefoots are found in California, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. They are adapted for living in xeric conditions.
These toads are found in deserts, semi-desert shrublands, dunes, scrub forests, mountains, and other dry areas. They are able to survive in these areas by burying themselves in the burrowing-friendly loose soils of these habitats.
Dark spots with their center more brightly colored can be seen on the dorsal skin of a Great Basin spadefoot. This skin is typically gray, brown, or olive in color. There is also an hourglass-shaped marking on its back which is outlined in gray.
Its underbelly is white, creamy, or light gray and it lacks markings. In comparison to the skin on the backs of true toads, the skin on the back of this species is smooth. Small bumps can still be found on it, however.
These toads have a dark brown or orange spot on each of their upper eyelids. They have large and cat-like eyes with vertical pupils. Their limbs and body are short, fat, and stubby.
Like other species of spadefoot toads, this one has a spade-like tubercle under each hindleg for burrowing. Females tend to be slightly larger in size than males.
Breeding does not take place at a particular time of each year for Great Basin spadefoot toads, but their calls, which are duck-like snoring sounds, are loud and used to attract females for mating. They are primarily nocturnal but they also show activity early in the morning and late in the afternoon.
12. Western Toad
- Family: Bufonidae
- Scientific Name: Anaxyrus boreas
- Other Names: Bufo boreas, alkali toad, boreal toad, California toad, Southern California toad
- Adult Size: 5.6 to 13 cm (2.2 to 5.1 in)
- Lifespan: 9 to 11 years
The species called western toad is another species is toad in Washington.
These toads are found in other states of the US like Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. They also occur in British Columbia, Canada, and parts of Mexico.
This species of toads prefer to live in mountainous areas and have been found in elevations as high as or higher than 10,000 feet.
They can also occupy desert streams and springs, mountain meadows, and grasslands. They are found in or near ponds, streams, lakes, and rivers.
Dorsal coloration is usually a dusky gray or greenish hue. A stripe runs down its back, and this line is white or cream in color. Black or dark-colored splotches can be noticed on the dorsal surface of the toads.
Their paratoid glands are oval and widely spaced. They are larger than the toad’s upper eyelids. Cranial crests are absent in this species.
Ventral coloration is white and the surface is mottled. Males and females are slightly different. Males have smoother skin, fewer blotches on their backs, and nuptial pads on their toes for gripping the females during the breeding season.
The dorsal skin of female western toads is rougher in texture than that of the males. They have many blotches on their skin and lack nuptial pads on their toes. These toads are nocturnal.
The call of this toad species is quite peeping likened to the sound of little chicks. Like other frogs, their anti-predator mechanism is the poison produced by their paratoid glands and warts on their skin.
13. Woodhouse’s Toad
- 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 populations in states of the US like Arizona, Louisiana, Idaho, Washington, Montana, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, California, and North Dakota. They also occur in Mexico.
They live in different habitats — temporary, semi-permanent, and permanent water bodies. Moist meadows, ponds, irrigation ditches, temporary pools, grasslands, farms, desert streams, and even golf courses house these toads.
Their dorsal skin is usually colored gray, brown, olive, green, yellow-green, or yellow, and it has dark blotches on it. A dorsolateral stripe running up to their snout is present in white or whitish color.
Ventrally, Woodhouse’s toads are pale cream or beige, and individuals may have their bellies mottled or not. Black and yellow marks can be noticed towards the ventral groin and thigh areas.
These toads are large and have warts on their skin. They have prominent cranial crests. Sometimes, a protrusion touching the separate paratoid glands can be noticed between these cranial crests.
They are nocturnal, showing most activity at night, but can be sometimes seen moving around in the daytime when they are not underground. Not much activity is noticed from them in the winter and so it is speculated that they hibernate.
Their call sounds like a sheep bleating but muted, or a snore. It typically lasts 1-4 seconds. These toads move slowly, walking or crawling with short hops. Their defense mechanism is the poisonous secretions from their skin that deter predators.
What frogs in Washington state are poisonous?
There are no poisonous frogs in the state of Washington. However, northern leopard frogs and green frogs may be confused for poisonous frogs.
The mink frog, which tastes bad, is mimicked by green frogs. Northern leopard frogs bear a semblance to the poisonous pickerel frog species.
What type of frogs are most commonly found in Washington state ponds?
The Pacific chorus frog, also commonly known as the Pacific tree frog, is the most commonly found and widespread species of frog in Washington state. They are usually found around small ponds in the breeding season.
Washington’s thirteen (13) anuran species have various traits, looks, and behaviors. This beauty in diversity adds to the thrill of nighttime in nature and benefits to the ecosystem.
Most adult frogs and toads are solitary until the breeding season. During this time, they are found in large groups around bodies of water. This is because fertilization is external except in “tailed” frogs.
Males usually take a breeding chorus and call out to females. These females sense the vibrations and meet the males to mate.
The males grasp the females from behind (amplexus) and they both release sperm and eggs, respectively, into the water.
When fertilized, the eggs go through a three-stage metamorphosis. From eggs, they turn to larvae (tadpoles) and then grow into adults. Young adults are sometimes called toadlets. Little to no parental care is usually shown.
The breeding season is usually from spring to fall. In the winter, most frogs and toads go into hibernation. When in hibernation, they reduce their body heat and stay in an inactive state so they don’t have to move around looking for food and warmth.
Hibernation is a coping mechanism for the winter, and aestivation is a coping mechanism for the summer. Some frogs and toads will bury themselves underground in extreme heat to avoid desiccation (drying up).
Anurans are fascinating animals and they make good first pets as long as they are not poisonous. They are small, affordable to purchase, and easy to take care of. Some also live long.