The deserts of Arizona are home to a wide variety of amphibians, including 24 species of frog. Several of Arizona’s indigenous frogs live in desert or semi-desert environments. In addition to the native frogs, some invasive species have taken up residence in the agricultural canals of the Sonoran Desert.
The Tarahumara frog, also called the Mexican frog, is a medium-sized frog that is usually brown, sometimes with a green, yellow or orange tinge. It has darkened spots on its back and crossbars on its rear legs. This frog tends to live in a drought-resistant environment that holds water year-round. In the desert, this means plunges -- areas of standing water surrounded by boulders or bedrock. The Tarahumara frog maintains a small and tenuous population in Arizona.
Pacific Tree Frog
The Pacific tree frog is also known as the Pacific chorus frog or the Pacific hyla. This frog is mostly found in Oregon, Washington and California, but can also be found in Mohave County, Arizona, along the border with California. It is present in desert oases. The Pacific tree frog can be green, grey, tan or brown. It is mostly nocturnal, and is not active during cold weather. Its call is a unique, two-syllable high note, which it repeats about once per second.
Western Barking Frog
The western barking frog is a species of small, olive green or tan frogs with dark spots on their backs and large black eyes. The barking frog is distinguished by its raven-like croak, which it utters in intervals of two to three seconds. In Arizona, the western barking frog is found in rocky outcroppings on hillsides and canyons. It does not need a permanent water source to survive.
Native Leopard Frog Species
Four native species of leopard frog can be found in the deserts of Arizona. The plains leopard frog is a brown or green frog identifiable by a spattering of light spots on its back. Though naturally attracted to large quantities of water, this frog can survive in intermittent streams and rivers in the Arizona desert. Chiricahua leopard frogs are large, sporting green or brown coloring punctuated by a large number of small spots on the back. They are usually found in wooded areas, but there are populations surviving in the intermittent desert streams of Arizona. Lowland leopard frogs are light brown or dark green, and can be found in the desert grasslands of eastern Arizona. The Ramsey Canyon leopard frog, a green or brown species of frog, occupies a range that is limited to just two canyons deep in southern Arizona.
Rio Grande Leopard Frog
The Rio Grande leopard frog’s native habitat includes parts of Texas, southeastern New Mexico, and northern and central Mexico. This moderately large frog can be brown, gray, gold or green. Most have dark spots on their back. They can now be found in Arizona along the Salt River, Gila, Agua Fria and Colorado rivers. Concerns about the Rio Grande leopard frog stem from the fact that, unlike native leopard frogs, it is not antagonistic towards bullfrogs and other introduced predators. However, there is currently no significant effort to oppose the Rio Grande leopard frog's encroachments into the Arizona desert.
- Arizona Game and Fish Department: Arizona’s Amphibians
- Arizona Game and Fish Department: Chiricahua Leopard Frog
- Arizona Game and Fish Department: Lowland Leopard Frog
- Arizona Game and Fish Department: Pacific Tree Frog
- Arizona Game and Fish Department: Plains Leopard Frog
- Arizona Game and Fish Department: Ramsey Canyon Leopard Frog
- Arizona Game and Fish Department: Tarahumara Frog
- Arizona Game and Fish Department: Western Barking Frog
- Reptiles of Arizona: Rio Grande Leopard Frog
- Tucson Herpetological Society: Rio Grande Leopard Frog
- Photo Credit thyegn/iStock/Getty Images
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