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Studying a wild common frog from my bedroom.


One of the most difficult thing in studying nature is being able to get close enough to the animal to look at it closely; wild deer run away, foxes hide and buzzards fly away when you get close.

Two months ago I decided that I wanted to find out more about common frogs (Rana temporaria). At this time of year, the tadpoles have turned into small baby frogs which hop around in long grass and near ponds,  so me and dad went out in to the woods to find some. Dad remembered a pool he had seen in the hollow left by an upturned tree which had been full of tadpoles but it was all dried up when we went there. We did not find any for a week until we went out to the Secret Lake Woods near my village.

This is me going through the field where I found the frogs. It was a cloudy day and dry but it had rained earlier and I found two in a meadow and one in a field.  I called them Hoppy, Ninja and Jumpy. 

This shows how small they were. I had to hold them carefully in case they jumped out my hand, then I put them in one of my bone collecting containers. I kept Hoppy but let the other two back into the wild after two weeks.

I had studied frogs and toads back in 2010 and wrote a post about telling the difference.

But should you take animals out of the wild ?

I usually believe that wild animals should stay wild. Taking any wild animal and keeping it as a pet has lots of questions. Is it going to hurt the animal ? Will taking it out the wild mean it can't ever go back ? Should you keep them forever ? What if the animal has a family which depend on it for food ?

Young frogs hatch separately from the mum and grow up by themselves, so it wouldn't be missed and might even be safer away from predators, but I had to make a place where it would be happy to live.

What's the law on keeping common frogs in the UK ?

In the UK, reptiles and amphibians (which frogs are) are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act, but you can keep common frogs as long as you don't hurt or harm them (despite what stupid Ask Jeeves says). But it is illegal to buy or sell them, or to have some other reptiles like the great crested newt, natterjack toad, sand lizard and smooth snake. This page is a good guide.

Making a habitat for a frog

I used an old fish tank to start with. I used a plastic box at one end to hold water, and I put gravel on the bottom. I put soil on the other part, and added a plastic tube to make a cave. This is what it looked like half way through:

And this is what it looked like when it was finished. I added more soil as a bank, covering up the cave, and added plants and grass and more gravel. Then I put a lid on and filled up the end with water to make a shallow pond:

The frog loves the water. They need water to keep their skin moist. When she is submerged int he water you can hardly see her. The gravel completely covers up the edges of the pond and lets the frog climb out, and it stops the water getting muddy from the soil.

My cat Eisie loved watching the frogs. This was the very first habitat I made which wasn't as good as the second one.

Studying the frog

The clear sides of the tank, and the clear plastic tunnel mean I can watch the frog almost always wherever she is. This is the frog at the mouth of the tunnel. You can see the plastic edges as lines going up.

It means I can get close and see the tiny nostrils and the toes:

Frogs can grow up to 10 cm, and only the males croak to attract females. You can tell whether they are male or female by turning them upside-down and if it has a brown coloured throat it is a male. This one isn't:

She stays very, very still for a lot of the day, and she is very good at hiding. Sometimes I think she stays still when I am watching her and she thinks I am a predator. Frogs are well camouflaged so if they stay still they are difficult to spot, especially in the wet rocks. 

Feeding the frog

I feed her five brown crickets a day. I buy them from Pets At Home and it costs £2.50 for 50 of them. I buy size four. When she is bigger I will need to feed her hoppers. 

When I put the crickets in, she chases one straight away and catches it in her mouth. Frogs have a sticky pad on their long tongue that helps them hunt and she doesn't seem to chew her food. At other times she seems to stay very still and let crickets come near to her.

A frog's strange skeleton

Hoppy is now 3cm long and still growing. She can already hop a massive distance compared to her size, because frog skeletons specially adapted with very long femurs (thigh bones) and lower legs (the tibia and fibula are the two bones in the shin, and they are fused together). The weird thing about frogs is that they have enormous pelvises which can slide up and down the spine so it can shoot forward like a catapult. It doesn't have ribs and doesn't really have a proper neck. This skeleton was at the Huntarian Museum of Zoology in Glasgow:

Hoppy is going to stay in the tank for at least another month and maybe longer, because it would be cruel to release her if she hasn't had time to prepare to hibernate for the winter. She seems happy and well fed and is growing well. There is plenty of places for her in the tank, and plenty of water for her as well, and I watch her carefully to make sure she is healthy !

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Psydrache said...

Actually I don't approve when people take wild animals at home, but it seems that you take care about it. The frogs seems happy/contented.

Jake said...

I think the important thing is that you remember that wild animals are always wild and never 'belong' to you. Dad always says that our cats are wild animals that just happen to choose to live with us as well. Dogs are a bit different though.

Christine Sutcliffe said...

Ooh, I always wondered how to sex frogs! I'll have to look back on all the photos I've taken over the years now that I know how!
I used to raise froglets from the tadpoles in our pond but I haven't done it in years...perhaps I'll give it another go next year as it's always great fun to watch them develop.

Jake said...

I wasn't so lucky with my tadpole this year !

Gabby said...

pretty much

Sambot said...

Do you still have Hoppy or did you let her go before winter? I agree with you that it is not ideal to capture wild animals for pets, but on the other hand, you can learn so much by observing them! I set up a terrarium for a jumping spider that was hanging around my bedroom last fall. Watching her was the highlight of my day!

Jake said...

I let her go so she could prepare for hibernation. I mentioned it in last week's blog post: http://www.jakes-bones.com/2013/10/the-epic-battle-between-homer-and.html

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