Cope’s Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis)

Cope's Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis)

Photos by J.D. Willson unless otherwise noted

Description: Gray Treefrogs are the fairly large treefrogs (1.25 – 2 in; 3.2 – 5.1 cm) with large toe pads and granular skin. They are heavier-bodied than Pine Woods or Squirrel Treefrogs, with which they can be confused. They vary in color from mottled gray to light green but their color can change depending on environment and activity. There is usually a light spot beneath eye and the inner thigh is bright yellow or orange when exposed.

Range and Habitat: Gray Treefrogs are found throughout the Southeast except for peninsular Florida including nearly all of SC and GA. This is the most common treefrog species in the Piedmont and Mountain regions of our area. They are found in a variety of wooded habitats but are most common in mature deciduous forest. Gray Treefrogs generally breed in fishless wetlands.

Habits: Gray Treefrogs spend much of the year high in trees and are most often encountered during the breeding season, when they call from vegetation surrounding wetlands. Breeding lasts from March to August, but calling is most intense in the early summer. Gray Treefrogs generally spend the day hiding in tree holes or other secluded areas and emerge at night to feed on insects and small invertebrates.

Call: Call is a musical trill.

Interesting Facts: Hyla chrysoscelis is morphologically indistinguishable from H. versicolor and two species are also sympatric throughout much of their ranges. Once thought to be single species, recent genetic work revealed H. chrysoscelis to be diploid and H. versicolor to be tetraploid. Two species are best distinguished by call; H. chrysoscelis has a faster trill than H. versicolor.

Safety Tip: This species of frog produces a toxic skin secretion that can cause extreme discomfort to the eyes, lips, mucus lining of the nose, or open cuts and abrasions. Careful hand washing is advised for anyone after handling gray treefrogs.

Conservation Status: Gray Treefrogs are common and not protected in our region.

Account Author: Jonathan Slone, University of Georgia – edited by J.D. Willson, Lauren Maynor, Katrina Ford