Frogs & toads FAQs Answers to some frequently asked questions about frogs and toadsI've found a frog / toad in my garden, what shall I do?Answer Amphibians spend the majority of their life on land and are often found in gardens, sometimes hundreds of metres from ponds/water. Common frogs are frequently found in urban areas and gardens are an important amphibian habitat in their own right.If the animal is trapped or in danger, release it into another part of the garden that provides cover from predators and extreme weather, such as in a compost heap, underneath a garden shed or near/underneath dense foliage; it does not need to be in a pond. If your garden does not seem 'amphibian-friendly' move the animal to your neighbour's garden or the nearest suitable habitat. I have too many frogs / toads in my pond, shall I move some?Answer During spring amphibians return to ponds to breed. In garden ponds, common frogs can be particularly numerous at this time of year. Sometimes upwards of fifty frogs can return to the pond, leading to the popular concern that ponds may be 'overcrowded'. This is a completely natural phenomenon, typical of amphibian populations around the world, with some years being particularly successful for breeding amphibians. Many people report that in subsequent years the numbers are not sustained and they then drop down.During spring the majority of common frogs will not stay around the pond area for more than a few weeks. Male frogs arrive earlier than females and there can be a few weeks before breeding actually commences. Spawning will last for a couple of weeks and activity will then decline, with adults moving to different parts of the pond or leaving the water completely. In the case of common toads, the vast majority will only spend a small amount of time in the water.Moving frogs or spawn?We do not advise that you attempt to move frogs, toads or their spawn away from your pond at this time of year: by taking them to a different pond you may unwittingly transfer various diseases and invasive plants. Also, many amphibians may try to return and there is a danger that some may suffer as a result of being placed in an unsuitable area.Too many froglets / toadlets in the summer?During the summer you may notice large numbers of tiny emerging common frogs and common toads leaving the pond after they have fully metamorphosed. Again, this is completely natural (safety in numbers) - most will disperse over the following days and weeks. Only a small proportion of these will survive to return as adults; many will fall prey to other wildlife - amphibians play an important role in food chains. We advise that you avoid mowing the lawn during this period. When you next cut the lawn carefully walk the route first to ensure that no amphibians are hiding in the grass. Amphibians, particularly common frogs, like to sit in long grass so from this point onwards it is advisable to keep your grass short to avoid any accidents. I haven't got any frogs / toads this year, what might be wrong?Answer Depending on the weather, it may still be too early for amphibians to be returning to ponds to breed. Frogs and toads breed in the spring when they migrate to their breeding ponds/ditches/etc. Migration is weather dependent (they prefer mild, wet evenings) and so is determined by location - it tends to occur later in the north and east of the country and earlier in the south. For example, migration will often occur in early January in Cornwall, and in some years can start as early as November. Follow the link to the Nature's Calendar website to view how spawning dates differ around the country.In some cases, lack of breeding amphibians in your pond could be the result of a population decline locally. This might be an indicator of pond loss: ponds form 'stepping stones' for amphibians across a landscape. If ponds disappear, so can local populations of amphibians.Similarly, their terrestrial habitats are just as important - amphibians disperse on land, to forage, hibernate and colonise new areas and if these areas or 'corridors' have been blocked (by a new road or even a fence) or destroyed (through development), the route to your garden may have been lost.Amphibian populations can fluctuate dramatically year on year, so having years with low numbers of amphibians can be a natural phenomenon and nothing to worry about. If no breeding adults appear in your pond, there may be other juvenile amphibians in the area that will turn up next year as breeding adults (frogs take two or three years to reach breeding age).You may be tempted to introduce some spawn from elsewhere to try and help your local population but we advise against this. By moving spawn you can accidentally introduce diseases and invasive pond plants. To find out how to make your garden more attractive to amphibians download our Dragons in Your Garden leafet Where can I get frogs / toads to put in my pond?Answer We do not recommend moving animals or their spawn. This is because movement of animals can transfer wildlife diseases and invasive plants between ponds.In most parts of the UK, amphibians (particularly common frogs and smooth newts) should find their own way to ponds, as long as they are in the area and can access the garden. It can take two years or more for a pond to colonise so you do not need to be concerned if your pond is not immediately inundated with amphibians. See our FAQ: 'How can I encourage frogs/toads into my garden?' and download our Dragons in your Garden leaflet for tips on attracting amphibians. What the law says All wild, native amphibians (adults and spawn) are protected against sale/trade. Please inform us if you see amphibians being sold (including on internet auction sites); it is legal to buy/sell exotic or captive bred individuals/spawn though this should be stated in the advert. How can I encourage frogs / toads into my garden?Answer Amphibians require ponds to breed, so adding a pond to your garden is the best way to encourage them. Consider size, shape and location of your pond before starting work and do not add fish as they will feed on spawn. See our Frequently Asked Questions about Ponds.If you do not have a pond (or space to create one), your garden can still benefit amphibians and they may make use of it if there are water bodies nearby. Amphibians spend the majority of their life on land and prefer a variety of habitats in which to forage, shelter and overwinter (hibernate). They will make use of log and stone piles, long grass, compost heaps and even nooks and crannies under your shed, decking or greenhouse. Habitats that provide shelter, stay damp and provide a good source of insects and slugs to feed on are particularly beneficial. See our Dragons in your Garden leaflet for more details.Common toads usually migrate to ancestral breeding ponds in spring; they're associated with larger ponds (fish ponds, reservoirs and farmland ponds) but are known to breed in garden ponds. Toads lay their eggs in long chains which they wrap around submerged vegetation. I am working on my pond, what shall I do with the frogs / toads in it?Answer If possible, delay pond maintenance until late autumn (September/October), so that tadpoles have been given time to metamorphose and before adult frogs return to the pond to hibernate (male frogs may lie dormant on the bottom of the pond during winter). If you need to carry out the work more urgently place any amphibians you find in a tank or suitable container, preferably with pond water, while you do the work and return them to the garden/pond when you've finished.Occasionally tadpoles/newt larvae remain in the pond over the winter and develop the following spring, so be sure to be check the pond carefully at any time of year before starting work.If you are considering filling in your pond because of safety concerns we advise you to consider installing some simple safety precautions for the pond instead, see FAQ 'How can I make my pond safer for children?'. Removing a pond can be very detrimental to local wildlife, particularly as adult amphibians will have nowhere to spawn when they return the following spring.Unfortunately there is no organisation that will pick up animals disturbed as a result of you filling in your pond. How do I tell the difference between frogs and toads?Answer The common frog is the amphibian most likely to be found in your garden. Common frogs are noticeable for their long jumps after being disturbed. They have: Smooth skin. A patch behind the eye. Long stripy legs. Variable colouration: usually green or brown skin but can be cream, orange, red or black. Variable markings, including stripes and spots (often like 'ink blots'). The common toad tends to crawl rather than making 'frog-like' leaps. When disturbed, toads tend to remain still. They have: Rough, warty skin. Usually brown with darker markings but some animals can be extremely dark or red in colour. Golden eyes. Two distinctive lumps behind the eyes (called parotoid glands). You could also take a look at our amphibian identification pages to see which species you've seen! If you suspect you have an amphibian in your garden that does not match either of these descriptions we would be happy to help you identify the species. Please e-mail us your photos (ideally with an indicator of scale) to [email protected]. What species of frog / toad have I seen?Answer There are two native frog species in the UK and two native toad species. The common frog is the amphibian most likely to be found in your garden; they are widespread and found in a variety of habitats, including quite urban gardens. Common frogs are noticeable for their long jumps after being disturbed. They have smooth skin, a patch behind the eye and long stripy legs. They tend to be green or brown (although can be cream, orange, red or black) and often have random black spots (like 'ink blots'). The pool frog became extinct in the UK but has since been reintroduced to a site in East Anglia. It differs from the common frog by being generally darker in colour, having a slightly pointier face and by often having a yellow stripe down the back. The common toad is also widespread. They tend to crawl rather than making 'frog-like' leaps. When disturbed, toads tend to remain still. They have rough, warty skin, golden eyes and two distinctive lumps behind the eyes (called parotoid glands). The natterjack toad is rare and only found in sand dunes, sandy heath and coastal grazing marshes. They're smaller than common toads, often have a thin stripe down the back and have shorter legs which they use for short bursts of running; they also have a very loud call. You could also take a look at our amphibian identification pages to see which species you've seen! I have found an unusually coloured frog / toad, what is it?Answer The UK's amphibians are much more variable in their colouration compared to other UK wildlife. This can sometimes make identification difficult but does mean that it's more likely that what you have seen is a common species with unusual colouring rather than something exotic. For example, the common frog - individuals of which can appear green, brown, orange, red, cream or even black. Male common frogs can also develop a blue tinge to their throats in spring, and females can appear more pink/red. Occasionally, a red colouring can be a sign of disease, but usually only when coupled with other symptoms. If the animal appears to have similar features to 'ordinary' frogs / toads then it is most likely this is a common species that is an unusual colour. I have found an injured frog / toad, what can I do for it?Answer If the injury appears slight and the animal is active and able to move freely, then it's advisable to just move the amphibian to a sheltered part of the garden, away from the view of predators (such as cats and birds) and extreme weather; for example amongst dense foliage or dead wood. Make sure it has the option to move to another part of the garden, should it want to. Injuries such as skin abrasions will heal fairly quickly, so moving the animal to a quiet area of the garden, where it can recover and forage easily, will increase its chances of survival. If you think that an animal is seriously injured contact your local vet. Many vets treat wild animals for free but ring to check first. Unfortunately vets (or the RSPCA) are often unlikely to help with injured amphibians, unless they have a specialism or interest in this field. Wildlife hospitals are more likely to be able to offer assistance - the RSPCA may be able to help locate your nearest wildlife hospital. Some links are provided below but further internet searches may prove useful. However, please remember that amphibians are small creatures and it is unlikely that a severely damaged animal will be successfully treated. I've seen toads being killed on a road in spring, what can be done to help them?Answer Common toads sometimes cross roads as they migrate to breeding ponds in the spring. Toads migrate en masse with waves of animals migrating from their hibernation grounds to ponds, ditches and reservoirs to breed. This can be particularly problematic on new roads that have been built through migration routes; some roads have thousands of animals crossing and, inevitably, traffic can lead to the deaths of hundreds of common toads in a matter of nights. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation is working with planners and highways engineers to ensure that requirement for amphibians feature early in the planning process for new roads. I have found dead frogs / toads, what's going on?Answer Depending on the time of year there could be several explanations for why amphibians may be found dead in gardens. Winter In particularly heavy winters, when ice forms over the pond for prolonged periods, frogs may suffer from 'winterkill'. Essentially, the ice forms a barrier which stops toxic gases (naturally caused by decaying pond detritus) escaping from the pond. In some ponds this can kill common frogs, males of which may choose to lie dormant on the bottom of the pond over winter. You can reduce the chances of winterkill by leaving a floating object, like a ball, in the pond which can be removed after ice has formed. This leaves a hole through which gases can escape. Recent research suggests that this may be ineffective, and growth of plants and green algae may be more helpful, as these oxygenate the water, even under ice. Never pour on hot water - this can lead to animals within the pond suffering from temperature shock - or use salt or chemicals; do not smash the ice as this can damage the pond liner and the pond life. Amphibians found away from the pond have probably been caught out by a sudden change in weather or have been disturbed by a predator. Spring It can be common for amphibians to die naturally after breeding has taken place, sometimes in quite large numbers. Spawning requires a great deal of energy and such exertions can leave amphibians lethargic and more open to predation or natural diseases. Animals that are known to prey on breeding amphibians (particularly frogs and toads) include: foxes, cats, mink, stoats, otters and rats. Female common frogs and common toads can occasionally become suffocated by males during spawning time. Though distressing to observe, this is a completely natural phenomenon; you should not attempt to separate 'mating balls' as this can damage the animals legs. During spring amphibians make migrations to breeding ponds, sometimes moving up to half a mile or more. Roads pose a particular problem in some areas where they interrupt migration routes, and dead amphibians, particularly toads, on roads can be a common sight - see our Common Toads and Roads leaflet. Please inform us of sites where you have seen this taking place. Summer In particularly hot summers, exposed amphibians can die from dehydration (desiccation). This is a particular threat to froglets that have just left the pond. To avoid this happening make sure there is plenty of shade and shelter provided by plants around the edge of the pond. If you have found dead froglets in the pond itself then it's likely that they have been unable to get out of the water. When tadpoles metamorphose into froglets they are reliant on breathing air and they are particularly susceptible to drowning at this life-stage. To avoid this happening create gently sloping sides to the pond and areas where it's easy for animals (including small mammals who may fall in by accident) to leave the water. In adult amphibians, diseases can be common at this time of year. If you have found large numbers of dead frogs that are very thin and were lethargic before death, please get in touch and help our research into amphibian diseases. I've disturbed a frog / toad from hibernation, what shall I do with it?Answer Amphibians lie dormant in winter, taking advantage of milder patches of weather to come out and forage. For this reason if you do disturb an animal in winter, it should be unharmed if covered up and left undisturbed. If you are unable to put the animal back where you found it, place it somewhere that offers protection from frost and garden predators like cats. Suitable places include log piles, under sheds or within your compost heap; it should not be somewhere 'warm', just a place that keeps free of frost. I've found a swollen frog / toad, what's wrong?Answer Female amphibians become noticeably swollen with eggs in spring. This is completely natural and they normally return to a smaller size once they have spawned. Two other causes of swollen amphibians are occasionally reported to Amphibian and Reptile Conservation: Egg-bound females: In spring or early summer a swollen amphibian could be a female that is egg-bound - where eggs fail to pass properly through the reproductive system. Try contacting a vet about it; most vets treat wild animals for free but do ring first as many may not be confident treating amphibians. 'Bloated frogs': Sometimes Amphibian and Reptile Conservation receives reports of frogs (or other amphibians) that become noticeably bloated. The bloating is apparent even in the upper body of the frog, rather than only the belly (which is indicative of carrying eggs). This unusual bloating is thought to be related to a hormonal imbalance which pulls water into the frog's body causing it to swell. According to our enquiries, symptoms often appear to subside over time. If you have found a bloated amphibian that's dead this is likely to have occurred after death, especially if it died in the pond, rather than being a symptom of something that killed it. Frogs / toads are being preyed upon, what can be done?Answer Amphibians form a crucial part of the diet of many wildlife species so you can expect to see a number of predators in your garden if there are frogs (in particular) present. Some amphibian predators, like grass snakes, have disappeared from many parts of the UK where they once thrived; having these animals in your garden is a privilege. Cats, however, can pose a persistent problem. While some cats may ignore frogs, others will catch, play with and sometimes kill them. Adding a variety of places in your garden for amphibians to hide when disturbed is the best long-term advice. Log piles, rockeries, dense low-growing foliage and water bodies can all provide places where frogs can hide and cats have trouble getting their paws into. 'Cat scarers' are another alternative method to consider. We would advise that pond-owners avoid using pond-netting. Sometimes the animals you're trying to attract (like grass snakes or hedgehogs) can become caught and die. I heard a frog scream when it was picked up, is this normal?Answer Common frogs can sometimes be heard to let out a shrill shrieking noise when disturbed or picked up by cats, dogs, other predators or people. This is a natural form of defence. Some frogs may also be seen to 'play dead'. Toads are not known to shriek in the same manner. Instead, they can be observed to draw in air to make themselves appear bigger. This defence is particularly effective against grass snakes, juveniles of which may think twice about trying to swallow large prey. Toads also produce a toxin from the parotoid glands in their backs which makes them distasteful to some predators. Why have frogs / toads arrived in spring when there is no pond?Answer Amphibians migrate to ponds in spring, often returning to areas where they spawned in previous years. If ponds have been removed it can be common for amphibians to return to the area where a pond used to be situated. In most cases amphibians will eventually move off of their own accord. Ideally, consider re-digging a pond. If child safety is an issue there are solutions, including raised ponds, pond grilles and fencing. Some ponds can be installed quickly and simply - see our Dragons in Your Garden leaflet and our FAQs about Ponds. Occasionally frogs will spawn in damp grass or in small puddles of water near where the pond was sited previously. If this happens carefully put the spawn in a bucket, and move it to the nearest garden/private pond, asking permission first. Please do not move spawn to a wild pond as you may inadvertently transfer amphibian diseases. There is no organisation that will come to your garden and remove adult amphibians or spawn. A frog / toad habitat is threatened, what can be done?Answer Of the widespread species of amphibian, only the great crested newt is protected by law from intentional killing and injury; their habitats (ponds and terrestrial habitats) are also protected. All of the UK's rare amphibians and reptiles (natterjack toad, pool frog, smooth snakes and sand lizard) are protected in the same way. If you suspect incidents where this law might be being flouted, please inform us. In 2007, the UK Biodiversity Action Partnership (UKBAP) listed the common toad as a species of conservation concern. In England this means that (under Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006) all public bodies must have regard for common toads, and great crested newts, (specifically under 'biodiversity conservation') when carrying our their functions. In Wales, Section 40(1) of the NERC Act 2006 places a new duty on every public authority, in exercising its functions, to 'have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity'. The duty affects all public authorities. Local authorities are a key target group, but the duty also affects a wide range of public bodies, including fire, police, health and transport authorities. In addition, Planning Policy Statement 9 (PPS9) states that planning authorities should ensure that species of principal importance, including the common toad and great crested newts, are protected from the adverse effects of development.