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What happens to the frogs and toads during the winter? | Pond & Lake Q&A

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

What happens to the frogs and toads during the winter?
Dustin – Huntsville, UT

As the temperatures continue to drop you will begin to notice that your pond, once full of life, is now starting to look like abandoned arctic tundra. Gone are the cool summer nights spent on your patio and deck watching fireflies tastefully illuminate your lawn while being serenaded by a choir of frogs and crickets.

While you are inside cuddled under blankets for the season where do your web-footed friends spend their winter? The winter retreat of choice will depend on the type of frog you have hanging around your pond. You will commonly find either some variety of frog frequenting the shallow areas or shoreline of your pond and toads farther inland rummaging about your gardens or front lawn. Both are very similar but can usually be identified by a few visual characteristics. Frogs tend to have smooth glossy skin that feels slimy to the touch while toads have dry lumpy skin. The eyes of a frog tend to protrude further from its head than those of a toad. A toad will usually have poison sacks located behind their eyes which help prevent them from becoming a snack for larger predators.

As frogs are cold blooded they will begin to slow down as their body temperatures drop. When winter arrives they will go into a state of dormancy and wait out the cold weather. The hibernation strategy varies between species of frogs. Toads tend to bury themselves in leaves or mud while frogs can pass the winter at the bottom of your pond below the ice. Frogs produce a type of glucose in their bodies that will allow them to freeze solid and still be able to survive. As the temperatures begin to rise in the spring their hearts will begin to beat again and they will begin to thaw. When they are once again mobile they will actively search for a place to mate.

Since frogs have an arsenal of survival skills to get them through the winter there is not much you have to do to help them survive the cooler months. Instead focus on keeping yourself warm and healthy and try your best to enjoy the snow and beautiful landscapes this winter brings

POND TALK: Do frogs frequent your pond? How do they adapt to the changing season in your area?

8 Responses

  1. We had a water turtle take residence in our pond over the summer. Does anybody know what they do in the winter?

    • Hi Nancy,

      They will find a place to hide out in the winter just as the fish and other wildlife. Depending on the type of turtle they will either hide out in the bottom of the pond or burrow into the surrounding dirt to keep away from the winter cold.

  2. I have notice over the years that there don’t seem to be as many frogs now as in the past. Nights are not as full of the sound of bull frogs as it was when I was younger.

  3. The frogs might go into hibernation at the base of the pond, but if the oxygen level gets too low, usually from a massive influx of rotting leaves, they’ll die along with the fish. It’s best to exclude as many falling leaves as possible, and keep a bit of the surface open all winter with a heater or air pump.

  4. I didn’t know frogs can freeze solid and survive. Amazing!

  5. What can you do to protect a red eared slider turtle for the winter. Should he be left in the pond or brought in and put in a tank!

    • Hi Darrell,

      Red Ear sliders will brumate just as other turtles and will most likely head to the bottom of the pond for the winter.

  6. Every year I have several frogs in my water garden. Unfortunately I’ve been losing the larger ones the last few years. sometimes they seem to be hibernating in the pump area before I’m ready to remove the filter. I think, when I remove the filter it disrupes their hibernation and they eventually die.

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