Northern Crawfish Frog

Family: 
Ranidae (true frogs) in the order Anura (frogs)
Description: 

A large frog with a light ground color and numerous, closely set dark spots. The head is disproportionately large. A prominent fold extends along each side of the back from the eye to the thigh. Ground color varies from light tan to light gray; the dark spots may be dark brown, gray or nearly black and are sometimes edged in white. A fine network or spotting of dark pigment is usually present between the dark spots. The belly is white. The call is a deep, loud, snoring “gwwaaa.” A group of calling males sounds like pigs at feeding time.

Size: 
Length: 3–4 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Restricted to native prairie or former prairie areas in our state. Populations occur in or near low-lying hayfields, native grass pastures, prairies and occasionally in river floodplains. They usually use crawfish burrows for retreats. Although nearly all the native prairies of the state has undergone intensive cultivation, this species has persisted. The Missouri Department of Conservation is providing appropriate pools in prairie habitats for crawfish frog breeding sites.
Foods: 
Northern crawfish frogs eat a variety of invertebrates, including insects, spiders and small crayfish.
Distribution in Missouri: 
The rolling hills, prairies and meadows of southwestern, extreme western, north-central and eastern Missouri.
Status: 
Vulnerable in Missouri due to loss of habitat. A Species of Conservation Concern. It persists even though its habitat has been extremely diminished. It is critical for this species that we protect, properly manage and reestablish prairies. This species needs small, fishless ponds in order to breed. Additionally, it is important to protect our water table—if the groundwater sinks too far, burrowing crayfish may be eliminated, reducing the available burrows for crawfish frogs.
Life cycle: 
In our state, they are usually active from March to October and breed from late February through April. Males gather in semipermanent pools and fishless ponds to call. The female can lay up to 7,000 eggs, grouped in large clumps 5–6 inches across. These are deposited on submerged plant stems or branches in shallow water, and they hatch in 7–10 days. Tadpoles transform to froglets from mid-May to mid-June.
Human connections: 
This species grows more valuable as our prairies disappear. The prairie environment is a great part of the American story, and the chorus of these frogs, along with the rest of the natural prairie, can evoke a profound sense of what our American forebears experienced as they moved west.
Ecosystem connections: 
This species is an important component of the rich and diverse prairie ecosystems of our state. It helps check insect populations, and it depends a great deal on crayfish for food as well as for shelter. Other species, including mammals and birds, feed on crawfish frogs.