General Adult Description: The Blanchard’s Cricket Frog is a small frog that averages just over 1 inch (2.5 cm) in length. While similar in length, they have a much more compact (less elongate) body plan than Boreal Chorus Frogs. Dorsal coloration can be variable from brown to olive green with dark variable markings. Hues of lime green, red, and rust colors are commonly observed on individuals. Typically, a dark triangle appears between the eyes, but this is not visible in all individuals. Black bands are typically present on the thighs and the ventral coloration is white. Adult males can be distinguished from females by the presence of a dark colored throat (females have a light colored throat), though this may fade outside of the breeding season.
General Larval Description: Larval Blanchard’s Cricket Frogs are small to medium in size, and get larger than most true toad tadpoles. Tadpoles are tan in color and have lateral eyes. Both the body and the tail fin are lightly mottled in black. Typically, small black blotches are present on the dorsal portion of the tail musculature. Additionally, in environments where numerous invertebrate predators are present, tadpoles will develop a black tail tip which is used as a lure to direct predatory attacks away from the body.
Call Description: Male Blanchard’s Cricket Frogs produce a loud call series of clicks that sound like marbles being clicked together, repeated slowly at first, then increasing in speed. Most calling occurs beginning at dusk, but individuals will continue to call through the day.
Behavior: Unlike many frogs, this species can be highly active during the day, feeding on a variety of small invertebrates. While it is closely related to arboreal species such as the Cope’s Gray Treefrog and Boreal Chorus Frog, the Blanchard’s Cricket Frog is primarily terrestrial and rarely climbs. Additionally, because it is primarily found along aquatic shorelines, individuals display a rather unusual behavior of jumping into the water but quickly swimming back to shore. The Blanchard’s Cricket Frog is considered freeze-intolerant and overwinters in terrestrial burrows and cracks in dried mud where they can avoid freezing temperatures. Their inability to tolerate freezing temperatures and the presence of more severe winter temperatures likely limits the distribution of this species from expanding other areas of South Dakota.
Reproduction: Blanchard’s Cricket Frogs breed in South Dakota from June–July, though individuals may still continue to call later into the fall. Females lay series of small egg masses attached to submerged vegetation. Tadpoles typically complete metamorphosis in late July and continue to emerge through August.
Habitat: Blanchard’s Cricket Frogs are abundant along most semi-permanent or permanent aquatic habitats within the regions they occur. While sandy habitats are not a necessary component of their habitat, individuals can be abundant at sandy riparian wetlands along the Missouri and James rivers. Breeding occurs at these wetlands, but adults and juveniles will remain at these sites year-round.
Species Range: This species has a large distribution and ranges from central Nebraska, western Kansas and Oklahoma, and central Texas east to central Ohio and Kentucky.
South Dakota Range: The Blanchard’s Cricket Frog is restricted to southeastern South Dakota along the Missouri River, James River, and Big Sioux River drainages.
South Dakota Status: This species is monitored by the South Dakota Natural Heritage Program. Any sightings of this species should be reported to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (report observation).
Account written by Drew R. Davis