The Winter that Almost Wasn’t

This time last week it was 55° and sunny in Chicago and much of the Midwest.  Golf courses were still taking tee times, people were out jogging with shorts on, and local animals were fooled into thinking it was still autumn…

Leopard Frog -- Waukegan, IL -- January 6th

This Leopard Frog was spotted by GSC Board Members Steve Jansen and Judy Bock during a trip to the Waukegan Dunes on January 6th.  As they noted in an email the frog was “very much alive with a smaller fellow traveler” and its legs “comically slipped on the ice with each attempt to hop.”  The temperature outside was 48° F.

Waukegan Dunes

The immediate question an observation like this raises is: can such a mild and delayed winter be good for these frogs?  Don Wilson, a friend of the GSC who oversees the Great Lakes Amphibian Monitoring Program for Environment Canada, has this to say: “I wonder if these Leopard Frogs will survive the winter.  They should be hibernating, living off of fat reserves.”

However, small North American frogs such as the Leopard Frog and the Chorus Frog (the other frog, not pictured) are used to braving cold weather.  The Chorus Frog has been known to survive temperatures as low as 18° F.  So, while the appearance of frogs in January isn’t yet a major cause for concern, it’s certainly an example of very strange behavior in what has been likewise a very strange winter.

Additional Coverage: The Lake County News-Sun

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