November is a transition month.
The month starts like autumn, complete with lingering fall colors, but usually ends up wintry. For living things such as leopard frogs, it’s all about preparation for the cold. Though many are already in hibernation, those that are left take advantage of the last few warm days and can be seen going from grassy areas to lakes, ponds and slow-moving streams. They burrow into the bottom mud or sand to keep from starving and freezing, or find other places under submerged logs or rocks. The frogs’ body metabolism drops to a low level during their inactivity, and their heartbeats slow.
The northern leopard frog is the state amphibian in Minnesota and Vermont. They normally are 2 to 3½ inches long when sitting. Spotted like a leopard, the frog is green or brown. It has rows of rounded dark spots with light borders on its back and legs. The frog lives in wet meadows, grasslands and forest edges, and in summer may travel up to about 2 miles from water. Its food consists of insects, worms and spiders, which are caught live by the quick flip of a sticky mucous-coated tongue.
The species is getting scarce now. Coldblooded, the frog reproduces, feeds and grows during the warm weather but must hibernate during the cold. We will see them again next April when ice covers leave their winter retreats.
Jim Gilbert’s Nature Notes are heard on WCCO Radio at 7:15 a.m. Sundays. His observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.