Oelrich wins Florida Senate approval for barking treefrog

This photo of a barking treefrog was provided by University of Florida professor Steve A. Johnson with the Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation.

Published: Friday, April 29, 2011 at 11:43 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 29, 2011 at 10:58 p.m.

Come July 1, Florida's raucous barking treefrogs could have a special reason to make a lot of noise.


Hyla gratiosa

Steve A. Johnson's website provides this information about the barking tree frog:

Size: Usually 2 to 2.5 in. (max 2.75 in.)

Identification: Plump body is green, gray, or brown; skin is uniformly bumpy (like goose bumps, granular). Back is marked with dark, round spots that may fade when the frog changes color, and sometimes with small, yellow flecks. Sides may be marked with light stripes with irregular borders, as shown in the photo above. Like all treefrogs, this species has enlarged, sticky toepads.

Breeding: March to August; lays eggs singly on the bottom of the pond. Breeding call is a hollow tonk, tonk; a chorus of frogs sounds like distant barking dogs.

Diet: Beetles and other small invertebrates

Habitats: Found throughout most of Florida (except the Everglades and Keys), usually high in treetops. Has also been found burrowed in sand under logs or grass near breeding sites. Breeds in a variety of shallow wetland habitats (fish-free), including cypress domes, bogs, wet hammocks, and flooded ditches.

Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Cross Creek, got unanimous approval Friday from the Florida Senate to designate the unusually large, spotted frog as the official state amphibian. The position is currently vacant.

If the measure becomes law, it will take effect on July 1.

A companion bill has been introduced in the House but is still in the tadpole stage.

The Senate bill was passed by a vote of 39-0 after sponsor Oelrich showed a picture of the frog and played a recording of one barking, according to the Associated Press.

University of Florida amphibian biologist Steve A. Johnson said the barking treefrog is a good candidate for state amphibian.

Frogs, Johnson said, are likely to be more popular than salamanders, the other amphibians native to Florida.

And among Florida's 25 native frog species, the barking treefrog has some good points: a wide range, a fine appearance and a strong voice.

"It's a very handsome frog," Johnson said. "This is a very good-looking frog. ... When you have a number of these things calling in the distance, they sound like a pack of hounds."

Florida has a diversity of amphibians, Johnson said. "Some of those don't do well with the loss of habitat. The barking treefrog is one of those." It needs upland habitat and small ponds without fish.

Even while the Legislature is poised to make a symbol of the frog, it is considering changes that could affect its habitat, loosening environmental protections in order to boost business.

"It's short-sighted," Johnson said, "to weaken rules and regulations for environmental protection."

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