Do Frogs Hibernate?

by Russ on February 16, 2013

Having existed for hundreds of millions of years, frogs have developed some of the most ingenious survival skills in the animal kingdom.

During the British winter, many animals seem to disappear altogether.  Our frogs are a perfect example. These pond dwelling creatures spend most of their time in our waterways, so how do they cope with plummeting temperatures and freezing waters?

Here in Britain we have two species of frog – the common frog and the pool frog. They are members of a vast and ancient family called the amphibians. Amphibians are famous for their ability to live in both water and on land. Their skin needs to be kept damp at all time, otherwise they would dry up. But frost and ice could cause equally serious damage as heat, so our frogs choose to hide from the advancing cold.

Frogs choose to leave the water to avoid freezing conditions. All amphibians in the UK must hibernate to survive the winter. Frogs do this by leaving the water and finding an underground tunnel, leaf litter or a large log pile. Here they will hide away from predators and enter hibernation, where body functions slow down to a minimum and they allow their bodies to freeze. Most creatures would not be able to survive this, making frogs one of the ultimate survivors.

Some frogs may also travel to the bottom of their pond and bury themselves in the mud. As the top layer of water freezes over, the bottom of the pond remains slightly warmer, enough to see the frog through to spring.

Frogs across the world enter hibernation during winter and this Canadian frog is no different…

Once the weather starts to heat up, the frogs will emerge from their sleep and travel back to the same pond they came from. Due to the uncertainty of our weather, this can happen anywhere between January and April. The frogs are easiest to spot at this time of year as their hopping movement can be hard to miss.

By leaving a corner of your garden full of logs and leaves during the winter, you can therefore make yourself your very own ‘Frog Hotel’ and it won’t cost you a penny!

Video by OULearn, youtube.

Don’t forget…

Leave a question or comment below if you’ve already seen any frogs this year and you could be featured in next week’s blog! You can also send your wildlife pictures to:

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Also remember to subscribe to our blog at the top right of the screen for updates on events,  your pictures, wild files and much more.

Take care, and stay on the wild side.

Russ


{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Shirley January 20, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Just seen a frog completely immobile in bottom of my “pond” – hope it’s hibernating and ok

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Richard February 8, 2015 at 11:19 am

Hi Shirley. I have a 750 litre plastic pond which I installed last year and I have also seen a motionless frog with his legs sticking out on the bottom of the pond this morning. If it is dead , then I would obviously like to remove it but don’t want to disturb it if it is in hibernation. A problem . . . . .

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Rupert February 16, 2014 at 1:53 pm

A tile blew off my roof in the wind. I had a stack of spare tiles round the side of the house. When I sorted through them there was a frog hibernating under them. I put a couple of tiles back over him and didn’t wake him up.

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john February 20, 2014 at 7:54 am

Just seen a frog hopping about in the street while walking the dog

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B Wise August 27, 2014 at 4:40 pm

When do frogs in the UK hibernate? We have had a frog in our garden for about two summers but in the last few weeks we have not seen it. It usually shows itself about March.

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Jocelyn October 21, 2014 at 8:43 am

I found a frog in a bucket of water in my garden the other day. Not sure how it would have got out again, so we gently tipped it into our pond. I’m curious whether it will hibernate in the pond or on land.

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Sue Goddard October 25, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Hello,
Today on my allotment I was shifting a compost pile and found a big fat frog, I picked it up and carries it carefully to a safer place when it “wee’d” in my hand. I wondered if it fills itself up with water ready for hibernating and this is what he squirted on me, possibly out of fright? I saw the liquid leaving his rear end, a good dessert spoon full, do you think this was just stored water?

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Russ October 31, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Hi Jocelyn, your frog will be currently stocking up on food before looking to hibernate somewhere on land, such as your compost pile Sue. It’s most likely a form of defense on the frogs part by weeing on you. Although there are species of frog around the world that can hold water, to my knowledge none of our frogs can do this.

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bek November 11, 2014 at 10:48 am

I have a friendly frog in work I say hello to every night , and then it started getting colder and I did’nt see it so often, I saw it again after a few days and I covered it with leaves. it seems to hide in an old stone wall where it is quite damp, we also have some in our garden ,so we have left a little wood pile and fallen leaves like you suggest , so hope they too will have one of your frog hotels.

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Mel Woodward November 15, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Hi, is it ok to move hibernating frogs as I am helping a friend empty a pond today as she is having her garden landscaped. I am bringing them to my garden 2 miles away. Any advice appreciated. Thank you. Melanie

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Russ November 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Hi Melanie. Whilst unsuitable to move the Hibernacula, making sure it stays at a constant temperature should prevent frogs from waking up. However, should the frogs wake up, it is best they are somewhere nearby to their original location, otherwise they may attempt to undertake the journey to return to your friends garden. Hope this helps and good luck!

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Karl December 30, 2014 at 10:42 pm

Hi I have seen 3 frogs over the past few days in my pond I thought they should be hybernating by now as the last 2 nights it frozen over I’ve cleared the ice away so they can get air what can I do for them ?.

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Russ February 16, 2015 at 2:50 pm

Hi Karl. The best thing to do in this case is let nature take it’s course. It is possible that these frogs have been awoken by their hibernacula (winter homes) have been disturbed. Putting a log pile by the side of your pond should offer them somewhere to stay. The other thing is that it is best not to break ice on a pond once it has formed – the vibrations of the breaking ice can further disturb hibernating creatures at the bottom of the pond and cause their early awakening.

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Betty January 25, 2015 at 1:26 pm

Saw two frogs while sorting the log pile,hope they are okay having desturbing them

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Wildlife Watcher February 19, 2015 at 6:43 pm

15 Feb 2015 I saw two frogs in my UK garden pond. They were obviously awake but not swimming around, just getting to another perhaps darker spot. Last year I fed the tadpoles on boiled lettuce leaves & boiled potato peelings when I ran out of lettuce. The white part of the peelings were eaten leaving just the skin the next day.
Just before the winter last year all tadpoles had left the pond except 2 oversized ones. The Internet says these two should continue to grow and turn onto froglets this year – unless they are not frogs but toad tadpoles? Watch this website in case there’s anything more to report – I think there will be 🙂

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Wildlife Watcher March 8, 2015 at 2:54 pm

22nd Feb two frogs were mating in my pond but by 26th Feb there was a dead frog next to the pond – something may have pulled it out of the water. The dead frog didn’t appear to have been eaten, so I’m guessing a neighbour’s cat that uses my garden as a toilet was also responsible. Perhaps I can ask here that cat owners keep their pet in at night and fit a bell to the cat’s collar – Englands natural wildlife might then stand a chance. Today 8th March I have two pairs of frogs mating and one loner. No sign of the 2 tadpoles from last year.

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Russ March 9, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Hi Michael. Although frogs are predated by a number of creatures, at this time of year it is more common than normal to find deceased frogs. It is usually the males that have spent all their energy in mating and simply run out of time. Look for two ‘horny pads’ that look like thumbs on the front legs to confirm that it is a male.

Hope this helps,

Russ

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Wildlife Watcher March 9, 2015 at 7:35 pm

Hi, thank you for the ‘horny pads’ info – I will look for these. My pond is about 1 meter from a compost pile – the idea being the frogs have a ready made larder of slugs, worms & flys. Last year I regularly saw a frog on the pile (under the cover) and if I spoke first then gradually lifted off the cover, the frog stayed, if I just pulled back the cover, the frog hopped it. I have not seen my toad since last year – he maybe under the compost pile (which may need careful turning over). If food was in reach of a frog, when would they start feeding?

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Russ March 10, 2015 at 1:22 pm

Hi Michael. There would start feeding as soon as they emerge from hibernation. Although in the race to mate, some frogs can miss out on too many meals. Both frogs and toads should be active by now.

Russ

Wildlife Watcher March 13, 2015 at 8:14 pm

I don’t know how many frogs I have today (13th March) but there are two lots of spawn so far. At least one male is croaking and there was lots of frog swimming activity this afternoon in the pond, perhaps because it was warm and sunny. I don’t want to disturb the frogs but I have opened up the compost covering a little to allow some of the aroma out that might attract flying insects and therefore food into the area. The compost currently has many small white flies & a few long legged flies visible (the compost covering is a clear plastic sheet). I might tomorrow stir up the compost to allow air in and make sure all is OK.

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Theresa March 1, 2015 at 1:46 am

Hi,
I have just seen a pair of frogs mating in our milking parlour,they obviously hibernate in the wall of the pit and I’m hoping seeing them now,as I did this time last year,will signal a good summer ahead!!

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Russ March 2, 2015 at 2:42 pm

Hi Teresa,

This is indeed a very good sign, frogs usually emerge around February and are ready for mating as they’ve produced sperm and eggs the summer beforehand. Fingers crossed for good weather!

Russ

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Angela & Brian March 13, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Have seen quite a few frogs motionless at the bottom of our pond. They are lying on their backs and appear to be dead, but I tried to gently remove one and it kicked its legs rather feebly and moved away. Our first encounter with hibernating frogs. Morning temp is still quite chilly, and the pond is a shady part of the garden. We’ll watch them, and hope they all survive. We usually get frog spawn in late March or when he water has warmed up sufficiently.

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Debbie Smith April 17, 2015 at 1:02 pm

I had to clear my mams pond and pulled out five frogs a that were totally lifeless. Three were engorged with what I presume was spawn (one of them had a jelly substance oozing from its rear). Two of them were floppy and and thin.
I have presumed they were in hibernation and have returned them to the pond but am confused about the three that appear to be ready to spawn. My mother wishes the pond to be drained and cleaned, so would you mind advising how to do this but not at the frogs expense?
Much appreciated

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Russ May 6, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Hi Debbie,
This time of year is an exhausting one for frogs as they emerge from hibernation and start reproducing. If they haven’t found enough food last year, it can leave them devoid of all energy (hence limp and lifeless). The best time to clear a pond would be mid-late autumn. This gives tadpoles the chance to grow and leave the water and makes sure you don’t disturb any amphibians that wish to hibernate at the bottom of the pond.

Many thanks for getting in touch,

Russ

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Kerry March 13, 2015 at 3:01 pm

Hi there.
We’re having to move our log pile as we’re having some building work done. We’ve found a frog/toad under some logs who had buried him/herself in a hole. We’ve covered it back up for now but work starts in a week. If he hasn’t moved of it’s own accord by then how is it best to safely move him?

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Russ March 19, 2015 at 11:43 am

Hi Kerry,

The best thing would be if he moves on his own, but otherwise find a similar site somewhere near by and move him then if you can. Hopefully as he will be woken now from hibernation he will stay away from the work.

Russ

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Paul Thorpe March 13, 2015 at 10:02 pm

Hi, it says frogs can hibernate in the debris at the bottom of the pond, as they do not have gills does this mean they can somehow breathe under water or hold their breath for extreme periods of time or some other explanation as I now appear to be a little confused re the common amphibians in the UK

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Russ March 19, 2015 at 11:46 am

Hi Paul,

Although most UK amphibians will hibernate on land, examples of both frogs and newts have been found to bury themselves in the silt at the bottom of the pond. Being amphibians their skin is much thinner than ours, which enables them to take in oxygen through their skin throughout the colder months.

Russ

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Paul Thorpe March 20, 2015 at 12:06 pm

Thank you Russ for your very helpful clarification

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Pepper Cat May 1, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Hi Russ
We have a toad (we think) who has spent the winter in an enclosed metal chamber which holds our water meter on our driveway. He’s fine – has been eating worms. Our worry is that he’s still there – it’s May 1st. – and that perhaps he’s now too big to get out the way he got in through one of the two holes in the chamber cover.
Shall we lift him out? Where shall we put him? We don’t have a pond. Please will you advise? Thanks.

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Russ May 6, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Hi Pepper,

The best thing to do is leave the toad where he is. Many will continue to use their hibernating patches for cover during the long day and emerge at night to find their wormy treats. Toads also travel great distance to get to water and the likelihood is that there is some body of water nearby he is using, otherwise he wouldn’t have stayed so long.

Many thanks,

Russ

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Pepper Cat May 6, 2015 at 6:59 pm

Thank you Russ for that advise. Thank you.

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Pepper Cat May 6, 2015 at 7:01 pm

Sorry! Advice! Ha!

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Katie July 1, 2015 at 7:53 pm

I picked up a garden frog today, to move it from where I was gardening, and it squirted something on me from its back end, what was this??

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Russ H July 17, 2015 at 2:26 pm

Well if it’s come from the back end, it was most probably poop. Some animals do this when they feel threatened. Partially to make themselves that bit lighter, ready for escape and partly because it could help put a predator off from eating it.

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jessie n bren October 5, 2015 at 9:23 pm

We just found a common frog sitting on our garden wall watching the moths. do they eat moths?

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Russ H October 8, 2015 at 11:17 am

Moths can be eaten by frogs yes, if the get their aim right. Frogs generally go for slowly, slimier prey though.

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cass Russell October 16, 2015 at 8:10 pm

My small pond had hundreds of frogs this year. Most seem to have survived and spent all summer growing and hopping around the garden. All have now disappeared and I presume have found safe havens amidst the messy edges of the garden. What a joy they have been. I look forward to them returning next spring.

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Lou November 4, 2015 at 11:43 pm

I only build a very small pond to try to encourage frogs etc into my garden. This weekend my mission was acomplished – a very large frog is making its home in my pond, hibernating at the bottom – very very pleased

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Michael McMillen December 7, 2015 at 6:46 pm

I live in Tennessee where the other night it was 25 degrees. It’s December 7th but that doesn’t seem to had discouraged the songs of what sounds like spring peepers. Which ever variety of frogs these are they were active all through the winter last year as well. I was under the impression they hibernate this time of year. Does anyone know if This is a type that does not hibernate?

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Jennie Trowbridge January 1, 2016 at 5:41 pm

As it’s been a really mild winter so far in the north-east, nothing in the garden seems to be going to plan! Found a frog the other day which was definitely awake..sure they should be hibernating by now! I desperately need to clear my pond out, it’s full of sludge and debris..but I don’t want to disturb any hibernating frogs at the bottom. It needed doing last year but I left it too late and there was too much frogspawn to do it, hardly any of the spawn survived though, maybe as the pond is so dirty? I need to clear it preferably before they start mating…any advice on the best time to attempt it?? 🙂

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Russ H January 6, 2016 at 1:02 pm

Hi Jennie, it’s a tricky one this year. With the warm temperatures most frogs have been active in the North-West as well, even the younger ones. This means that predicting when the frogs will breed is difficult, but normally it should be around February. The best time to clear it would be late summer, after the young froglets have left the pond.

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claire January 20, 2016 at 9:52 pm

Hi
Iv two frogs in my watering can hibernating I presume?
I’m worried that this is not the best place for them as the water is not a deep as a pond and hence it freezes over on the top, I did clear the ice but then thought it would be disturbing them! is there anything that I can do or just leave them to hibernate over winter? there is a pond in my neighbours garden were they must have come from but have taken a fancy to my watering can.

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Russ H January 25, 2016 at 11:47 am

Hi Claire,
The only reason I would move the frogs is if 1. you need to use the watering can or 2. it looks like they may struggle to get back out of the watering can. Even so, if this is the case I would fill the can up with cold water so when the time comes the frogs can climb out safely.
Many thanks,
Russ

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John January 27, 2016 at 12:26 am

We have a small pond which has been seriously frozen over for more than a week with temperatures of -10 (we live in Denmark). The ice has now gone (up to +8 now) and today I removed 8 lifeless frogs from the bottom of the pond, all lying on their backs. Have I got this wrong? The fish are fine. The frogs are now on our giant compost heap.
Regards,
John

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Russ H January 27, 2016 at 10:57 am

Hi John,

It is possible the frogs haven’t survived, but it is also possible that the frogs are in a dormant state of hibernation, where the can appear lifeless but are actually just on minimal run time. Their heart rate slows as do all biological processes. The best thing to do is leave the frogs where you found them and nature should take it’s course.

Many thanks for getting in touch,

Russ

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laura February 14, 2016 at 3:38 pm

Hi all, I have just looked in my pond to find a large frog on its side with a smaller frog on its back ‘hugging’ the larger frog. I am presuming theyre both hibernating but im concerned that theyre dead. My fish are avoidind them and im worried that if they are dead they could contaminate the pond. Any advise?

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Russ H February 16, 2016 at 12:25 pm

Hi Laura,
It sounds like you have mating frogs (the first record I’ve had this year!). Females always appear larger than the males. They should be fine together, although if you do have fish it is unlikely you will see many spawn or tadpoles, as fish will readily shack on these.

Many thanks,

Russ

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Carolin February 20, 2016 at 10:36 pm

Just seen a fron outside on out drive near the garage, unusual for this time of year! I think he may be living in the garage as there is a gap he can get through the, and in the summer saw him go through it.

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Anita Stewart October 9, 2016 at 11:06 pm

I have frogs in my pond and for the last couple of days one has been lying on the top of the water. I don’t know we there to take him out and put him somewhere to hibernate or leave him.

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Russ October 11, 2016 at 8:01 am

Hi Anita, the best thing to do is leave the frog in the pond. It should have already identified a local spot to hibernate in by now and it should retreat there when the temperature drops. Is it still moving around? Russ

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Sue Gibson December 28, 2016 at 12:13 pm

Hi Russ, I was under the impression that female frogs hibernate away from water and males hibernate in water. Could this be correct? A few years ago frogs in the pond which had come out of hibernation were latching onto and killing the fish by suffocating them. A few days later we saw several frogs heading to the pond and the frogs latched onto them instead.

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Russ February 7, 2017 at 12:54 am

Hi Sue. Although frogs have been found to hibernate in both water and on land, I have never come across anything that suggests this is a male/female split. I have also never heard of a frog suffocating a fish. How or even why this would happen I do not know. Possibly though they were males who were particularly “in the mood” and got over excited with the fish. Males climb onto the backs of females during mating in an attempt to stop other males doing the same.

Generally, male frogs are rather dark and females much lighter in colour.

Hope this helps,

Russ

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