An Official Website of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
Kentucky’s amphibians occur in a wide variety of places. Some kinds are largely or totally terrestrial, while others are entirely aquatic throughout their life cycle. Some are found only in swamps and/or bottomland forests bordering the Mississippi River and lower Ohio River, while others prefer upland forests in various sections of the state or even the high elevation northern hardwood forests in extreme southeastern Kentucky. A few even occupy open grasslands and prairie remnants.
All of Kentucky’s frogs and toads breed and lay their eggs in water. Some species prefer temporary ponds, road ruts, and ditches as breeding sites while others use permanent ponds or even the backwater areas of rivers and large streams. Kentucky’s salamanders are more variable in breeding habitat; 10 kinds are completely terrestrial at all life stages while the remaining 25 species have aquatic larvae. The terrestrial forms deposit their eggs in moist places on land, the eggs are brooded by the females, and all larval development takes place within the eggs. Those species with aquatic larval stages are themselves quite variable – 9 kinds only breed in ponds, 2 use swamps and/or wetlands, 2 utilize large streams and rivers, and 12 reproduce in springs, seeps, and headwater streams. All adult salamanders and frogs in Kentucky are predators, mostly feeding on insects and other small creatures. All salamander larvae are also predaceous, but frog larvae (tadpoles) are herbivores.
KDFWR pays special attention to about 40% of the Kentucky amphibian fauna (9 frogs and 14 salamanders) due to a variety of conservation issues. Some species have very limited ranges in the state, others appear to be in decline for a variety of reasons, and a few have been chosen because they have special needs or use habitats that support a wide array of other wildlife. Several kinds of salamanders are nearly endemic to Kentucky – much more common here than anywhere else – and we keep close tabs on them as well. Some of KDFWR’s activities on behalf of these amphibians include constructing and maintaining breeding ponds, nighttime voice surveys for calling frogs, regular visits to certain locations across the state to document reproduction (eggs, larvae, metamorphs, or juveniles) or count adults, surveying new areas and habitats, checking for evidence of Ranavirus and other amphibian diseases, supporting university research, and creating detailed maps for each species to provide a baseline for future work.
Frogs and Toads of Kentucky Identification
True Toads (2)
Treefrogs and relatives (10)
True Frogs (8)
Narrowmouth Toads (1)
American Bullfrog, Photo by John R. MacGregor
Mole Salamanders (7)
Lungless Salamanders (23)
Green Salamander, Photo by John R. MacGregor