As spring arrives, reports of frog calls start pouring in, with wood frogs and spring peepers taking center stage. However, the lesser-known chorus frogs, including upland chorus frogs, New Jersey chorus frogs, and mountain chorus frogs, can also be heard in the background. Although these tiny tree dwellers are listed as species of least concern for conservation range-wide, they still face significant threats.
According to naturalists, finding chorus frogs is a challenging task, as they are silent and invisible one moment and piercingly loud in the wetland next to you the next. During these months, male upland chorus frogs use their “crrreeek” sounding call, similar to the sound of running a finger along a comb, to attract females for mating. Sometimes, silent males engage in sexual interference, sitting quietly and innocently near calling males and intercepting approaching females. The female lays large quantities of eggs attached to aquatic vegetation, and metamorphosis occurs in two to three months.
However, these tiny creatures face real threats to their survival. Amphibians, including frogs, have porous skin that they use as part of respiration, and their life cycles begin in water as soft, slimy eggs. As a result, they are excellent indicators of water quality due to their sensitivity and reliance on aquatic ecosystems for reproduction. Viruses and fungal infections pose a significant danger to them, spread by human industry and the pet trade and exacerbated by the growing climate crisis. The loss of any frog species could disrupt the balance of food webs and interconnected life cycles, creating ripples across multiple layers of species interactions.
There are several ways in which people can support the conservation of chorus frogs. If fishing or playing in streams, ensure that your gear is thoroughly cleaned between sites. If you find a frog, never handle it with dry hands; wetting your hands with fresh, non-chlorinated water is preferred. Planting native species wherever possible is always a good idea, as these plants support a greater diversity of insects, providing food and habitat benefits to frog populations. Creating a water feature in your garden can also help to provide excellent habitat for them. Finally, supporting local wildlife conservation programs through tax donations to organizations like the Chesapeake Bay Trust can make a real difference.
While all three chorus frog species found in Maryland are considered related to tree frogs and listed as species of least concern for conservation range-wide, they still face significant threats. This makes it essential for people to take action to support their conservation. To learn more about chorus frogs and toads in Maryland, visit the Maryland Amphibian and Reptile Atlas published in 2018 or check out local records of chorus frogs at the Maryland Biodiversity Project.