northern leopard frog

(Rana pipiens)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern

northern leopard frog


N5 - Secure

S4 - Apparently Secure


not listed


Common and abundant


Damp woodlands and grasslands, always near lakes, ponds, rivers, slow streams, marshes, or wetlands.


5 to 7 years


2 to 3½

Photo by Bill Reynolds


This is a slim, medium-sized, widely recognized, spotted frog. It is 2 to 3½ long at maturity. Males are smaller than females.

The back (dorsal surface) is smooth to moderately rough. Background color and spotting is variable. Most adults have 2 to 4 rows of black spots on a green background. Some have a greenish-brown or brown background, some have no dorsal spots, and some are brown with flecks of white, brown, or black between the spots. Juveniles may have few or no dorsal spots. The spots on all adults have a whitish or yellowish bordered. Prominent folds on each side of the back (dorsolateral) extend from the head to near the vent. The folds are light on top and dark at the base. They do not angle inward near the vent (anal opening). Males have a pair of inflatable vocal sacs on their shoulders. During breeding season these appear as areas of loose skin.

The belly is white or cream-colored.

There is a white stripe in the upper jaw. The ear covering (tympanum) is smaller than the eye.

The hind legs have dark horizontal bands. The inside of the thighs of the hind legs are pale with a greenish tint. The feet are webbed. Males have thick, dark thumb pads.


A low pitched snore, lasting 2 to 4 seconds, and occasional clucks or croaks.


Pickerel frog (Rana palustris) has a light tan background. The spots are squarish. The inside of the thighs of the hind legs are bright yellow. They are found only in trout streams in southeastern Minnesota.

Tadpole Food

Algae, plant tissue, organic debris, and probably some small invertebrates

Adult Food

Insects, spiders, snails, earthworms, and other small terrestrial invertebrates.

Life Cycle

Adults breed in April and May. With the male still attached, the female lays a single round mass of between 300 and 6,500 black eggs, attached to vegetation just below the water surface. The eggs hatch in 1 to 2 months and tadpoles metamorphose into adults in about 50 days, depending on the weather. After metamorphosis they leave the pond to feed on dry land and to migrate. Mass migrations often occur after heavy rains.

Adults reach sexual maturity in 2 or 3 years. They hibernate usually in deep water that does not freeze completely. They live 5 to 7 years.



Distribution Distribution Map   Sources: 7, 11, 12, 13, 24, 29, 73.


This is the most common frog in Minnesota.

Color Morphs
There are no recognized subspecies of northern leopard frog but there are four color morphs. Most adults have 2 to 4 rows of black spots on a green background (green morph). Some adults have a greenish-brown or brown background (brown morph). The Burnsi morph is brown or green with no dorsal spots. The less common Kandiyohi morph is brown with flecks of white, brown, or black between the spots.

An outbreak of deformities in this species was discovered by school children in LeSueur, Minnesota, in 1995. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency researched the problem from 1997 through 2000, when funding for the research was discontinued. The cause of the malformations remains unknown. According to the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII), research suggests that there is no single cause. The four major environmental factors contributing to the malformations are contaminants, nutritional deficiencies, parasites, and injuries from predators.

In 2006 most North American true frogs were transferred from the genus Rana to the genus Lithobates by Frost et al. The change was controversial and was not accepted by all authorities. In 2008 and 2009 the change was rejected by Stuart, Pauly et al., and other systematic reviews, and in 2009 North American true frogs were returned to their previous classification. Lithobates is once again a subgenus of Rana. ITIS37 and Amphibian Species of the World61 continue to use the 2006-08 classification. NCBI34 and UniProt33 use the new classification. AmphibiaWeb60 suggests using the original name followed by the subgenus name in parentheses, in this case Rana (Pantherana) pipiens.



Batrachia (amphibians)



Anura (frogs and toads)









Ranidae (true frogs)











Lithobates pipiens


northern leopard frog









Referring to the upper surface or back.


Dorsolateral folds

Two parallel lines, one on each side of the back, of raised glandular skin between the back and the sides of most North American frogs of the family Ranidae.



The circular, disk-like membrane that covers the ear opening of some reptiles and amphibians.














Visitor Photos

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Alfredo Colon

  northern leopard frog    

Margot Avey

  northern leopard frog    

Kirk Nelson

  northern leopard frog    

Bill Reynolds

  northern leopard frog   northern leopard frog
  northern leopard frog    



Green Morph

  northern leopard frog   northern leopard frog
  northern leopard frog    

Brown Morph

  northern leopard frog    





  Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens)
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens)  

The State Amphibian of Vermon

  Rana pipiens (Northern Leopard Frog)
Allen Chartier
  Rana pipiens (Northern Leopard Frog)  
  Rana pipiens
Mike Pingleton
  Rana pipiens  
  Northern Leoprd Frog
  Northern Leoprd Frog  




Visitor Videos

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Other Videos

  Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens)

Published on Apr 30, 2012

No description available.

  The Northern Leopard Frog (Ranidae: Lithobates/Rana pipiens)
Carl Barrentine

Uploaded on Dec 21, 2009

A brief contemplative look at the northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens), a common but possibly declining species in the upper midwest of the United States. Specimens shown here were filmed in northeastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota in the summer, 2009.

  Northern leopard frogs calling

Uploaded on Mar 20, 2009

Northern leopard frogs calling

  Northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens) mating call
Bart B. Van Bockstaele

Uploaded on Apr 21, 2009

This is a northern leopard frog calling for a mate. Others can be heard in the background.

See also the article on

  Leopard frog (Rana pipiens) calling
Ryan M. Bolton

Uploaded on May 2, 2007

Leopard frog calling.

© Ryan M. Bolton

  Northern Leopard Frog (Ranidae: Lithobates/Rana pipiens) Anterior View
Carl Barrentine

Uploaded on May 14, 2010

Photographed at Kellys Slough NWR, North Dakota (14 May 2010). This is the largest and thinnest leopard frog I've ever seen. I believe that this is a female en route to a wetlands area, 50 m distant, where males are calling this late afternoon.

  Uploaded on Mar 29, 2007

Uploaded on Mar 29, 2007

Vocalizing Northern Leopard Frogs from New Jersey. Poor video, but mainly for documentation purposes





Visitor Sightings

Report a sighting of this amphibian.

Alfredo Colon

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

northern leopard frog

Kirk Nelson

Location: Lebanon Hills Regional Park

northern leopard frog

Margot Avey

Location: Lake Harriet Gardens, Minneapolis MN

northern leopard frog

Sandralee Branzovsky

Location: Long lake, Grandy, MN

always surprised to see this frog.  Not very many around anymore.

Bill Reynolds

Location: Pennington Co Mn

northern leopard frog



Baker Park Reserve

Big Stone Lake State Park

Blanket Flower Prairie SNA

Bonanza Prairie SNA

Boot Lake SNA

Buffalo River State Park

Camden State Park

Cedar Mountain SNA

Cedar Rock SNA

Chippewa Prairie

Cleary Lake Regional Park

Cottonwood River Prairie SNA

Crosby Farm Regional Park

Crow-Hassan Park Reserve

Des Moines River SNA

Falls Creek SNA

French Regional Park

Blazing Star Prairie

Flandrau State Park

Frontenac State Park

Glacial Lakes State Park

Glendalough State Park

Hastings SNA

Hayes Lake State Park

Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie

Holthe Prairie SNA

Hyland Lake Park Reserve

Joseph A. Tauer Prairie SNA

Kasota Prairie

Kellogg Weaver Dunes SNA
Kellogg Weaver Unit

Kilen Woods State Park

Lake Bronson State Park

Lake Shetek State Park

Langhei Prairie SNA

Leif Mountain

Lester Lake SNA

Margherita Preserve-Audubon Prairie

Minnesota Valley NWR
Chaska Unit
Long Meadow Lake Unit
Rapids Lake Unit

Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area
Lawrence Unit

Mound Spring Prairie SNA
North Unit

Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve

Myre-Big Island State Park

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR
Hoffman Unit

Ordway Prairie

Ottawa Bluffs Preserve

Otter Tail Prairie SNA

Pembina Trail Preserve SNA
Crookston Prairie Unit
Pembina Trail Unit

Pin Oak Prairie SNA

Pine Bend Bluffs SNA

Plover Prairie
East Unit

Potato Lake SNA

Prairie Coteau SNA

Red Rock Prairie

Regal Meadow

Rice Lake State Park

Robert Ney Memorial Park Reserve

Rock Ridge Prairie SNA

Sakatah Lake State Park

Santee Prairie SNA

Savage Fen SNA

Savanna Portage State Park

Schaefer Prairie

Schoolcraft State Park

Seminary Fen SNA

Sibley State Park

Spring Prairie Preserve

Strandness Prairie

Sunfish Lake Park

Swedes Forest SNA

Twin Valley Prairie Addition

Upper Sioux Agency State Park

Verlyn Marth Memorial Prairie SNA

Western Prairie SNA

Whitetail Woods Regional Park

William O’Brien State Park

Zimmerman Prairie




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