Caring For Stray Frogs in the Winter

Every winter, frog lovers around the world write to us about stray frogs that wander inside. Last week a man from Maryland wrote about finding a grey tree frog.

Dear Susan,
“I found a gray tree frog hopping around inside our gym here in Maryland. I guess he was drawn inside by the heat. Well, I took him home and have him in a fish tank with water, crickets and artificial leaves for shelter. I’ve got a heating pad that sticks to the back of the tank. I was wondering how cold I could keep my home and still have the frog be ok?” – Gianni

Gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor) by Robert A. Coggeshall on Wikipedia

Gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor) by Robert A. Coggeshall on Wikipedia

For those of you not familiar with grey tree frogs, here’s some information and to read more, a page on Wikipedia:

The gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor) is a species of small arboreal frog native to much of the eastern United States and southeastern Canada.[2]

As the scientific name implies, gray tree frogs are variable in color owing to their ability to camouflage themselves from gray to green, depending on the substrate where they are sitting. The degree of mottling varies.[3] They can change from nearly black to nearly white. They change color at a slower rate than a chameleon. The female does not croak and has a white throat; however, the male does croak and has a black/gray throat. The female is usually larger than the male.

The gray tree frog is capable of surviving freezing of their internal body fluids to temperatures as low as -8 °C.[9]



When we find stray frogs who haven’t found a place to hibernate, it’s usually because we continue to build within the areas of their habitat, and they may get lost or confused. Going inside where the heat is on shows that this frog is trying to survive through the winter. It’s wonderful when people care enough to help them.

Rescued Grey Tree Frog in Winter

We’ve found a great site with tips on how to care for frogs and get them through the colder months, so they’ll be healthy and ready to go back outside come spring.

How to Take Care of a Pet Frog


Here are two of our previous posts that help explain what happens to frogs in the winter:

Winter is Coming: How Do Frogs Avoid Freezing


How Frogs and Toads Adapt To Winter’s Chill



Foliage For Indoor Frogs

Frogs are one of the more common classroom pets because they are quite easy to care for and they look very cool. Growing frogs is a great way for science teachers to teach kids about metamorphosis because they can use the frog as example for this process. Frogs at first are tadpoles and then they turn into an adult frog. But there are a few things that you should know if you are thinking about raising a frog in a classroom or in other indoor spaces. One of the most important things being what type of foliage to use for the frogs as that can determine how the frogs feel in their classroom terrarium because plants provide the frogs with cover as well as help with the oxygen production in the vivarium. This foliage will be different based on what type of frog you have – an aquatic, semi-aquatic, terrestrial or arboreal (climbing or tree) frog.


Foliage for aquatic frogs
Because aquatic frogs tend to spend most of their life underwater these frogs will require to live in vivarium where there is a lot of water which means that you will have to have aquatic plants too, because regular land plants won’t be able to survive in the water or in a place where it is very moist and wet. Common plants that grow and feel well in aquatic environments are Anubias species plants, which are very durable aquatic plants; Pothos Plants and Philodendron that are long vine type plants that will nicely cover your aquatic terrariums wall; Cryptocoryne wendtii, which are tall plants with heavy foliage; as well as Anacharis plants that the frogs can use to hide among and other similar plants. But for classroom purposes you can also make a biotope aquatic tank meaning that you place all of the same plants that can be found in the natural habitat of the frog species that you have in your terrarium.

Foliage for semi-aquatic frogs
Semi-aquatic frogs are called that because they spend half of their time in the water and half on land and they need appropriate tanks with 50% of the tank being water but and the rest being land. This also means that in a vivarium for these types of frogs you can combine aquatic plants and also non-aquatic plants. Just keep in mind that these non-aquatic plants too should favor a moist environment and soil so don’t place plants that prefer dry conditions in a semi-aquatic tank. For the water portion of the terrarium you can again use the same aquatic plants that I mentioned previously, but for the land portion of the tank you can use plants like Bromeliads that will adapt to basically any environment, as well as Ferns that are high humidity plants and other plants that can stand humidity and their roots being constantly wet.

Foliage for arboreal (tree) frogs
Then there are so called arboreal or tree frogs that need a lot of climbing space meaning that their vivarium too needs to have taller plants with climbing potential. Great plants for frogs of this type are Philodendrons that grow really fast and in basically any conditions; Wandering Jews that also are quick growing plants; plants called “Golden Pothos” that is adaptable and an easy growing plant; Aglaonema genus plants that can reach up to 3 feet, as well as Marcgravia or Shingle Plant that has fat leaves and tends to climb on other surfaces; and a plant by the name of “Silver Skies” that also grows fast and has big leaves.

Foliage for terrestrial frogs
Lastly, there are quite a lot of frogs that are categorized as terrestrial or land frogs. For these types of frogs you can create a vivarium that is quite similar to one that I described for arboreal plants. However, in the terrestrial frog case they don’t need the height of the plants but rather they need bigger and longer spaces that are heavily clad with foliage because these frogs need places to hide and they are not able to climb the plants like tree frogs can. For terrestrial frog tanks you can use plants like Peperomia and Pilea plants, both are plants with many different species that are all good for terrariums, as well as Orchids because they don’t like wet places and other house plants or land plants.
One thing to keep in mind with terrariums and plants though is the light that they get because for any plant to grow they need light for photosynthesis to happen. The more light plants get the faster they grow, so make sure that in the classroom the frogs are placed in a spot where it gets natural lighting. An alternative of course, which in many cases might be even better than natural light, is to install t5 grow lights or any other similar artificial lights above your terrarium, because with these artificial lights the plants as well as the frogs will get the light and heat they need and you will be able to control the conditions in the terrarium so that they are just perfect for the species of frogs you have.


*** Guest post: My name is Ben Thorton and I am the owner and editor of T5fixtures.com. My passion is all things related to plants and plant growing and I consider myself an expert in this field, which is why I love to share my passion with others to help them be successful in gardening and plant growing too.


Environmentalism: It’s up to YOU to teach the young

It’s December and there are just 11 days left for children to enter the 2015 kids art contest, and all ages to enter the photo contest. As I watch artworks and photos trickle in, I’m wondering (as I did in 2013) why aren’t more people participating? (read >> The Young Environmental Artist)

I see a pattern here. The climate talks are on in Paris, but most are just talkers and not doers. It’s not enough to “like” and share pictures and articles on social media, and not actually do something to show you care.

My own Jersey City made me proud last year with close to 200 students from 17 schools submitting artworks. In addition, we received artworks from 17 states in the US and 32 countries around the world. The total last year was close to 1000 pieces of creative expression. It was marvelous! The winning artworks were celebrated online and in 3 well received exhibitions including an exhibition in Jersey City’s City Hall.

Jersey City is a culturally active area with a large artist community, and yet these same artists, many who have children, aren’t participating either. So, I’m back to wondering why it’s easier for me to reach parents and teachers in other countries and not those in my own area?

I’m asking you now… educators and parents to explain to the young why they should care about wildlife and the environment and I’ll continue to do my part to help amphibians and the environment too.

Please make me proud by entering today!


Susan Newman,
Founder, Frogs Are Green, Inc.
A NJ nonprofit organization – “Healthy frogs mean a healthy planet for all.”

Below is one of my favorite entries from 2014.

1st Place Winner, Kardelen Koc, Turkey, Frogs Are Green Kids Art Contest 2014, age 3-6 group

1st Place Winner 2014, Kardelen Koc, Turkey, Frogs Are Green Kids Art Contest 2014, age 3-6 group


Frog Art in Jersey City – City Hall Rotunda

The last few months have been very exciting. The international children’s frog art is taking over Jersey City! The next exhibition is up now inside Jersey City’s City Hall Rotunda. It will be up until May 30th and the opening reception is May 20, 2015 at 6-8 PM EST. (You can visit weekdays and weekends, just see the event page for the hours.)

I’m reaching out because I expect the city will send the video team (JC1TV) and they would love it if the students whose work is on the walls could be at the reception. So, if you are one of the students that entered and won, or you don’t live too far away, please join us on May 20th!

3rd Place Winner, Cynthia Cao, USA, Frogs Are Green Kids Art Contest, Best Environmental Art

3rd Place Winner, Cynthia Cao, USA, Frogs Are Green Kids Art Contest, Best Environmental Art

Here’s the link to see all the winning artworks:

Here’s the event for May 20th on Facebook, so you can join and follow the details:

Here’s a link to all the Frogs Are Green events planned for 2015.


Learning about Nature in the Concrete Jungle

Recently we received an email from Kelly Rypkema, a New York area naturalist who is the producer and host of the video series Nature in a New York Minute. Kelly has just released an episode about the Amphibian Crossing Project in New Jersey, a volunteer-based effort to conserve amphibians in the Northeast.

In the Amphibian Crossing episode, we learn about the manmade obstacles that frogs, toads, and salamanders face each spring as they attempt to migrate, obstacles that threaten their very survival. Kelly joins a team of biologists and volunteers who are working to save these animals by taking matters into their own hands – literally.

If you’re a city dweller with an interest in nature around you, please take a look at Kelly’s site. For nature-oriented news and events, you can follow her on Twitter and Facebook or subscribe to her blog.


If You Can Make It Here: New frog species discovered in NYC

Last week’s discovery of a new frog species in New York City was one of our favorite recent amphibian news stories. The story was picked up by newspapers both across the country and worldwide, from the BBC to the News Pakistan. We especially liked the story, not only because we are both native New Yorkers, born within an hour’s drive of where this frog was discovered, but also because it was discovered by a scientist from New Jersey (our adopted state.)

So here’s the story, as reported by the New York Times and New Jersey Newsroom.com:

While doing research in Staten Island (one of New York City’s boroughs) in 2009, Jeremy A. Feinberg, a doctoral candidate in ecology and evolution at Rutgers University, heard an unusual frog call.  Instead of the “long snore” or “rapid chuckle” he would normally expect from a  leopard frog, he heard instead a short, repetitive croak. Feinberg suspected this frog might be a new species. He teamed up with Cathy Newman, a geneticist completing a master’s degree in genetics at the University of Alabama, to test the frog’s DNA.

Jeremy Feinberg

Newman compared this frog’s DNA with the DNA of southern and northern leopard frogs, which range widely north and south of New York City. These frogs look quite similar to each other, but the results indicated that this frog’s lineage was genetically distinct.

Newly discovered leopard frog in NYC. Photo by Brian Curry, Rutgers University

Feinberg believes this leopard frog once inhabited Manhattan and the other boroughs. He has found specimens in the Meadowlands and the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, as well as in Putnam and Orange Counties in New York. Some frogs were also collected in central Connecticut.

What’s unusual about this finding is that new frog species are usually found in the remote rainforests of Indonesia and similar places, and not within the shadow of one of the world’s most densely populated urban areas.

The New York Times has asked readers to come up with a name for this new frog. They have listed some attributes of this frog to give you inspiration for a name, including the fact that the geographic center of the frog’s range is Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

How about The Green Bomber? After all, there are Yankee fans all over the tri-state area.

More information about the discovery:

The findings are to be published in an issue of the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, but are currently available online. Much of the genetic analysis was performed in Professor  H. Bradley Shaffer’s laboratory at the University of California at Davis, where he worked until recently.

Photo of Jeremy Feinberg, courtesy of New Jersey Newsroom.com