It ain't easy being green, in Johnston, and the rest of Rhode Island

Frogs and toads abound in the Ocean State, but face threats


Look carefully before you tread.

There could be a tiny critter in your path.

It’s amphibian season, and Johnston is crawling with frogs and toads.

A bumpy little fellow crawled through the lumpy ground in Johnston Historical Cemetery No. 7, near the intersection of George Waterman Road and Route 44.

“That one is an American toad,” said Herpetologist Scott W. Buchanan, a scientist working with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Division of Fish and Wildlife.

The Eastern American Toad, or Anaxyrus Americana, can be found throughout Rhode Island, except the small bay islands and Block Island, according to DEM reference materials.

The toads breed wherever they can find water but are mainly terrestrial, and can be found in both forests and fields.

“American toads eat worms and other invertebrates,” according to DEM. “American toads enter a state of dormancy in the winter, digging their way into the soil beneath the frost line. They emerge and migrate to breeding grounds in April and breed from mid-April to early June. Tadpoles metamorphose between June and August. American toads re-enter hibernation around October.”

The DEM has identified seven species of frogs and three species of toads in the Ocean state.

“The most apparent difference between frogs and toads is the mucus covering on frogs that protects their smooth, permeable skin from drying out,” according to a DEM reference sheet. “Toads have bumpy skin that is more tolerant of dry conditions. Toads also have parotoid glands, which frogs lack, located on the back of their heads. These glands produce a toxic substance that deters predators from eating them.”

Look to the lily pads in the pond at Johnston’s War Memorial Park for the slimier variety.

Early this week, one critter could be seen sunbathing at the water’s surface, a dark tail still present between its back legs.

“The absence of a dorsal lateral ridge indicates that this is a bullfrog,” Buchanan explained. “Green frogs can have a very similar appearance but have a pronounced ridge of skin running along the side of their body.”

The frog spotted at Memorial Park was just recently a tadpole.

“It is in a late stage of metamorphosis and yes, still has a tail,” Buchanan said. “It’s difficult for me to tell whether it’s a male of female without having in hand and at such an early stage of metamorphosis.”

The American Bullfrog, or Lithobates catesbeianus, is one of the most aquatic frogs in the state, according to the DEM.

“They can be found in permanent and temporary waterbodies throughout Rhode Island, except on Block Island. “Bullfrogs will eat anything they can, including other frogs, mice, fish and snakes.”

In the winter, American bullfrogs enter dormancy by resting on the bottom of ponds, emerging in late March or early April.

They tend to breed from May to August, and re-enter hibernation in late October, according to the DEM.

“Tadpoles will overwinter for 1-2 years in Northern populations before metamorphosing into adults,” according to a DEM reference guide.

While some species remain plentiful, some frogs and toads are in danger of extinction. 

“Though unique in their adaptations, both frogs and toads are greatly impacted by numerous threats and Anurans are among the most threatened vertebrate taxa,” according to DEM. “Recent population declines and extinctions have been occurring world-wide; our own populations of spadefoot toads and Northern leopard frogs are threatened in Rhode Island.”

Land development is one of the animal’s biggest threats.

“Highly developed areas such as Providence, Cranston, Warwick and Woonsocket lack a complete amphibian fauna, and Fowler’s toads and Northern leopard frogs are no longer found on Aquidneck Island,” according to the DEM. “To preserve these animals, we must look to protect and connect their habitats and work toward a clean and healthy ecosystem.”

Habitat loss, fragmentation, pollution, disease and predators like cats and raccoons are among the biggest threats to frogs and toads.

The DEM reminds Ocean State residents that it is illegal to catch a wild toad or frog and keep it as a pet.

Local creature lovers, however, can use an app DEM developed called Herp Observer, which allows Rhode Islander’s to submit observations of amphibians and reptiles they see in the wild.


Download an app DEM developed called Herp Observer, which allows Rhode Islander’s to submit observations of amphibians and reptiles they see in the wild.


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