9 COMMON Amphibians in North Dakota (ID Guide)
Are you wondering what amphibians you can find in North Dakota?
This is a great question! Although amphibians are widespread, they can be challenging to locate. Most amphibians, including frogs, toads, and salamanders, are secretive and shy. But in my opinion, looking for amphibians is a really fun experience!
Below you will find a list of the most COMMON and interesting amphibians that live in North Dakota. In addition, you will find detailed pictures, along with range maps for each species to help with your identification!
- RELATED: 7 Common Reptiles in North Dakota (W/Pics!)
9 Types of Amphibians That Live in North Dakota:
#1. Northern Leopard Frog
- Lithobates pipiens
- Adults range from 2 to 4.5 inches long.
- Smooth skin is green, brown, or yellow-green with large dark spots.
- Lighter-colored raised ridges extend down the length of the back.
You can spot these amphibians in North Dakota near slow-moving bodies of water with lots of vegetation. Northern Leopard Frogs are easy to see in or near ponds, lakes, streams, and marshes. I love how bright green most individuals appear!
Northern Leopard Frog Range Map
Due to their fairly large size, these amphibians eat various foods, including worms, crickets, flies, small frogs, snakes, and birds. In one study, a bat was even observed being eaten!
During the spring breeding season, the males will float in shallow pools emitting a low call thought to sound like snoring. However, the Northern Leopard Frog may also make a high, loud, screaming call if captured or startled.
Northern Leopard Frog populations are declining in many areas, and the cause is not exactly known. It’s thought to be a combination of habitat loss, drought, introduced fish, environmental contaminants, and disease.
#2. Boreal Chorus Frog
- Pseudacris maculata
- Adults range from 1 to 1.5 inches long.
- Coloration is brown, olive green, or tan, with three dark stripes down the back that are sometimes broken into blotches.
- Prominent black stripe on each side from nostril, through the eye, and down the sides to the groin.
- Looks very similar to the Western Chorus Frog. Boreal Chorus Frogs are distinguished by having shorter legs.
While the Boreal Chorus Frog is a common amphibian in North Dakota, they are rarely seen. They’re small and secretive, inhabiting moist meadows and forests near wetlands.
Boreal Chorus Frog Range Map
These amphibians breed in shallow temporary ponds and pools such as flooded fields and roadside ditches. They require waters free of fish; otherwise, predators would eat most of their eggs and tadpoles!
Males produce a loud chorus of calls at breeding sites, which are easy to identify.
The sound has been compared to someone running a finger over the teeth of a comb (“reeeek“). You’re most likely to hear the calls in the late afternoon or evening.
#3. Wood Frog
- Lithobates sylvaticus
- Adult body lengths range from 1.5 to 3.25 inches.
- Coloration is various shades of brown, gray, red, or green, with females tending to be more brightly colored.
- Distinct black marking across the eyes, which resembles a mask.
As the name suggests, Wood Frogs are found in moist woodland habitats, including forested swamps, ravines, and bogs. They travel widely and visit seasonal pools to breed.
Wood Frog Range Map
This incredible little amphibian has a wide range across North America. They have adapted to cold climates by being able to freeze over the winter. Their breathing and heartbeat stop and their bodies produce a type of antifreeze that prevents their cells from bursting. In the spring, they thaw and begin feeding again.
Wood Frogs are among the first amphibians in North Dakota to emerge after the snow melts. Listen for a call that sounds a bit like a clucking chicken near vernal pools and other small bodies of water!
#4. American Toad
- Anaxyrus americanus
- Adult length is 2-3 ½ inches.
- Coloring is usually brown to gray, olive, or brick red. Typically, they have patches of yellow, buff, or other light colors, with dark spots.
- The American Toad is distinctive for its many warts present over the back and legs.
These amphibians are common in North Dakota.
American Toads are found in a wide variety of habitats, including forests, prairies, and suburban backyards. They are carnivorous and mainly eat insects, worms, spiders, and slugs.
American Toads have a very recognizable call. Listen for a musical trilling noise that can last for 30 seconds.
They like to breed in shallow water, and tadpoles have an amazing defense against predators. Incredibly, their skin secretes a toxic chemical so powerful that eating one tadpole can kill a fish! And like their tadpoles, adult American Toads are also toxic to other animals.
#5. Great Plains Toad
- Anaxyrus cognatus
- Adult length is 2-4 ½ inches.
- Coloring is pale white to tan or olive with large, dark-colored pairs of blotches down the back. Lighter tan or white belly.
- A crest on the head forms a “V” shape from the snout, moving outward on the head toward the back.
Great Plains Toads are found in temporary shallow pools, quiet streams, marshes, or irrigation ditches. They are most common in grasslands and can be found in desert brush and woodland areas.
Great Plains Toad Range Map:
Only a few weeks out of the year are suitable for the Great Plains Toad to feed and reproduce. Amazingly, they spend the rest of the year mostly dormant in underground burrows made by other animals.
Symmetrical dark splotches running down its back make this amphibian one of the easier toads to see, but you will probably hear one nearby long before you can spot it. Its call can last more than 50 seconds and is similar to a jackhammer!
When large groups of Great Plains Toads call, the sound can be near-deafening!
#6. Woodhouse’s Toad
- Anaxyrus woodhousii
- Adult length is 2 ½-4 inches.
- Coloring ranges from gray to yellowish or olive green.
- The belly is light tan or buff, with very few dark spots on the chest.
Woodhouse’s Toads are adaptable to many environments, including grasslands, deserts, floodplains, and developed areas. Interestingly, individuals that live in suburban areas will wait under street lamps to catch and eat insects attracted to the light.
Woodhouse’s Toad Range Map:
The most striking feature of these amphibians is their shape – they are round and stout, with short legs that look too small to support their bodies!
Woodhouse’s Toads have a very short call that resembles a distressed sheep’s bleat.
#7. Eastern Tiger Salamander
- Ambystoma tigrinum
- Adults range from 6 to 8 inches in length.
- Their coloring is dark gray, brown, or black with brownish-yellow to greenish-yellow markings, ranging from large spots and stripes to small irregular shapes on the head, back, and tail.
- This species has a thick body and neck, short snout, strong legs, and a lengthy tail.
These amphibians are one of the largest salamanders in North Dakota.
Eastern Tiger Salamanders are secretive and spend much of their time underground in woods, grasslands, or marshes. You’re most likely to see them moving about and foraging on rainy nights.
Their diet is primarily made up of insects, worms, slugs, and frogs. However, if there’s a prey shortage, they become much less picky. They’ve been observed feeding on baby snakes, newborn mice, and small salamanders of other species. They will even cannibalize their own young in times of low food supply!
Although Eastern and Western Tiger Salamanders are closely related, it would be unusual to mix up these two species. First, they rarely share the same range and aren’t often seen together. Secondly, Eastern Tiger Salamanders are much larger and have a black patch on their snout.
#8. Western Tiger Salamander
- Ambystoma mavortium
- Adults range from 3 to 6.5 inches in length.
- Their coloring is greenish-yellow with black markings, ranging from large spots and stripes to small irregular shapes on the head, back, and tail.
- This species has a thick body and neck and a short snout.
Western Tiger Salamanders are secretive and spend much of their time underground. You’re most likely to see these amphibians moving about and foraging on rainy nights. Their favorite hiding spots are burrows, which they can make themselves or borrow from other animals.
Interestingly, Western Tiger Salamanders have four distinct morphs as adults. Scientists classify them by whether they are aquatic or terrestrial and what they eat. For example, a typical Western Tiger Salamander eats insects and frogs, breathes above water, and spends time on land.
However, there is a terrestrial morph that cannibalizes other Western Tiger Salamanders! In addition, there are cannibalistic and non-cannibalistic AQUATIC morphs that have gills and breathe underwater.
The aquatic individuals are called paedomorphs, and while they are mature and able to reproduce normally, they retain a lot of the features of larval Western Tiger Salamanders. The most obvious feature is their frilly, long gills!
#9. Common Mudpuppy
- Necturus maculosus
- Adults range from 8 to 19 inches in length.
- This species is rusty brown to gray or black with scattered bluish-black or black spots.
- The large, bushy, red, or maroon external gills behind the flattened head make this species easy to identify.
Common Mudpuppies are among the most well-known amphibians in North Dakota.
These LARGE salamanders can be found in nearly any body of water, including lakes, reservoirs, ditches, and rivers. They are secretive and require habitats with lots of cover, such as boulder piles, submerged logs, tree roots, or vegetation.
Common Mudpuppies are nocturnal and spend their days hiding under rocks. They’re active at night and hunt by walking along the lake or river bottom, but they can also swim. These opportunistic feeders eat whatever aquatic organisms they can catch, including insect larvae, small fish, fish eggs, aquatic worms, snails, and even carrion.
In the spring, when water temperatures don’t fluctuate as much, these amphibians spend time in shallow water. However, they have been reported in water as deep as 100 feet during the summer and winter!
What types of amphibians in North Dakota have you seen?
Let us know in the comments!