Update on frozen frogs

Frogs spawning spring 2008. Thanks to Paul for the nice picture.

Frogs spawning spring 2008. Thanks to Paul for the nice picture.

UPDATED: This is a January 2009 post. For more up to data discussion of the effects of the freeze and thaw see the latest posts.

In my entirely unrepresentative survey of whether the icing up of ponds led to frog deaths we are now on dead frog reports 3, no dead frogs 2.

What can we tell from this? Well, really nothing more than that frogs sometimes die under the ice, whereas other times they don’t.

To get an accurate result we’d need to choose beforehand a cross-section of ponds, or a cross-section of pond owners, and then go to look at whether frogs were seen dead or not. The main problem is that its much more likely that you’ll report seeing dead frogs than seeing nothing – even though seeing nothing is just as important (perhaps more so) than the sad loss of our favourite pond animals.

But as is so often the case, we don’t have the kind of information we would really like to understand our ponds.

If anyone else would like to feedback, I’d be really interested to hear from you, especially if your pond iced up and you saw nothing – (how about that for introducing a bias to the results!).


THE COMMENTS SO FAR including some from the Froglife website – don’t forget to visit them too.

Checked our pond this morning and can straight away see 4 dead frogs…. Not pleasent. Martin

On our shallow pond (12″ deep), which does contain frogs, there were no sightings of dead frogs after the ice cleared. Steve

I have a large pond and, probably due to the extended freeze, has a large number of dead frogs, newts and dragonfly larvae. There is no sign of trauma or disease, just lots of bodies which is sad.  David

….so far no dead frogs have been sighted. Margaret, Boston, Lincs.

Anonymous said…I read this too late, I’ve been trying to keep airholes in my small pond, home to many frogs for several years but alas this wed 07.01.09 11.59am, and there are at least 3 large dead frogs floating on the second layer of ice, and others that look like small brown toads…


50 Responses to “Update on frozen frogs”

  1. The dead frog pond « The Garden Pond Blog Says:

    […] The Garden Pond Blog Everything about making garden ponds for wildlife (and looking after them, too) « Update on frozen frogs […]

  2. Paul Says:

    Our small garden pond was frozen solid (or nearly so) for several days during the cold blast. Since the thaw I’ve seen one live frog, one live newt and countless live damselfly nymphs. I can’t guarantee that there’s nothing caught under the weed, but so far things look good.

    ps: glad you liked the photo!

  3. Mick Says:

    I’ve got a 6ft x 4ft x 3-4 ft deep pond and loads of frogs and goldfish for 15 years without any problems…then in the last few days discovered 10 large dead frogs and 3 fish. Made a few small air holes in the ice but they froze up very quickly after.

    So was it the ice?

  4. Louise Harrison Says:

    I have a small/medium size pond and have lost nearly all my large frogs): They appeared to have come up to the surface for air, but because the pond was frozen for such a long period of time (over a week) they either froze or suffocated to death – poor things.
    I have a number of goldfish that seem to be ok. I just wonder why the frogs woke up and came to the surface in the first place – when they should have been hibernating.

    I am just hoping that the younger/smaller frogs have survived and are still at the bottom of the pond in the mud.

  5. Jeremy Biggs Says:

    Hi Louise – sorry to hear about the demise of your frogs. There’s some interesting things to say about your post, so I’ll come back to it a bit later as I’m currently sitting in a hotel in Geneva having a problem dealing with with the Environment Agency back home.

  6. Larry Says:

    My pond is 11 years old, 3 feet deep and 15 feet in diameter. We have had frogs every year and last yearr seemed to be unusually good. Today while doing some garden clean up I saw a dead bull frog floating in the water and fished him out. I then decided to see if this was the only one and after 30 minutes removed 40 dead frogs all large and beautiful. the water is still very cold but the snow and ice are gone now for over a week. Are they really dead or hybernating. Some are upside down, others have a transparent film in their webbed feet and others seem to have lost the outer layer of skin. We had the coldest winter in 20 years here in south Germany. I never realized there were so many frogs in this pond. Was it the ice and snow?

  7. Jeremy Biggs Says:

    Hi Larry
    Have you got a photo of your pond? It would be really great to see what it looks like. Will answer your question a little later.

  8. Larry Says:

    Hi Jeremy,

    yes I have 3 pics of the pond I took a few minutes ago. How can I send them to you?

  9. Jeremy Biggs Says:

    Just send them to me at: jbiggs@pondconservation.org.uk.

    I must find a way of letting people post them direct!

  10. Yvonne Cunnington Says:

    Dear Jeremy

    Reading all these other reports about dead frogs makes me feel very sad. We have quite a large pond, and this weekend (1.3.09), we have had to clean out our pond as we have lost 44 frogs, all adults. I discovered them after the ice had melted and there they were. At first I saw 1 floating on the surface, and then, as I looked more carefully, I saw more and more. They were all around the very edge of the pond. We took about 34 out, and as I say, this weekend, we decided to clear the pond out, and found another 10. These frogs have been coming to our pond for 5 years now to spawn, but alas, no more. I just hope that others will come. The pond is not the same anymore. For information, we live in the North East of Scotland.

  11. Jeremy Biggs Says:

    Dear Yvonne

    It does sound traumatic – but have a look at what Lowri in Wales found back on the 20th Feb posting for a bit of hope springing eternal!

    Its here: http://thegardenpondblog.org.uk/2009/02/20/the-agony-and-the-ecstasy/

    It’ll be very interesting to hear whether you get any spawning this year.


  12. Yvonne Cunnington Says:

    Dear Jeremy

    Thanks so much for your reply to my note.

    Poor Lowri, but how fantastic that she has got frog spawn in her pond despite what happened. As you say, there is hope yet.

    Will let you know if we get any here in our pond this year.


  13. Julie McCormack Says:

    Our neighbour just stopped my husband to ask if we had any frogs in our pond as he had discovered 11 dead ones in his own. After completely draining his pond and cleaning he wanted to add some froglife back to it. My husband bragged we had an awful lot of breeding activity and all was well in our pond (lots of spawn produced over the last few days). But we have since gone to find Dave some nice replacement frogs only to find ours have died also. It did turn very cold last night but the pond didn`t freeze over – is this what has caused our joint misfortune?

  14. Rising from the ashes « The Garden Pond Blog Says:

    […] from the ashes By Jeremy Biggs From Louise (see the original comment at http://thegardenpondblog.org.uk/2009/01/26/update-on-frozen-frogs/ Dear Jeremy,   After the massive frog suicide (or whatever it was), I am pleased to tell you that […]

  15. Yvonne Cunnington Says:

    Dear Jeremy

    Since my last note to you of 1 March, there is good news for once. I went to the pond on 12 March, and saw to my surprise, 4 frogs, and then on 13 March, there were 14 frogs and some frog spawn! I was so pleased after finding 44 dead frogs in the pond.

    My husband had a good idea – he is going to put a flexible 4″ drain pipe in the pond with one end in the water at the deepest part, and the other end just out of the water and secured, so, if the pond freezes over again, the frogs can come and go through the pipe, and also the pond gasses can escape. Hoefully, we won’t have repeat of what happened earlier this year.

  16. Jeremy Biggs Says:

    Hi Yvonne

    Glad to hear it. Any pics of your little ones (or your pond)?


  17. Vicky Says:

    Can anyone please tell me why there is a shortage of frogs spawn this year!

    Is it due to the freeze?

    My parents who live in suffolk and have a huge wildlife pond have no frogs spawn at all this year!

    Can someone please help with this


  18. Steve Priestley Says:

    We have had about the same amount of frog spawn as last year (we are in Lancashire). But like last year we are struggling to keep them alive as the water gradually dries up.

  19. Janette Says:

    I have a three year old pond and thought that before the big freeze I had only 4 large goldfish. As the weather grew colder I switched my pond pump off and placed a large ball on the pond to create an air hole (advice from a neighbour). As the pond is just thawing I have discovered what look like 5 different sized frogs which unfortunately do not seem to be moving at all. They are not floating but are completely still towards the outer edge of the pond. They were a surprise to find and I do hope that they are just hibernating. Do you think this is possible?

    My Goldfish are now swimming around again towards the bottom of the pond and I have discovered several babies (some dead and floating on the top unfortunately). I have lots of oxygenating plants will this provide adequate food for all during the winter? I have been advised not to add fish food.

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Hi Janette

      I’m afraid that, sadly, the frogs are probably dead – victims of the freeze.

      I’ll be writing more about this so keep an eye on the blog.


  20. Effects of the big freeze on ponds « The Garden Pond Blog Says:

    […] This also happened last year in the shorter freeze we had in January 2009 (see this post, for example, and espcially the comments that follow it). […]

  21. Andrea Mantle Says:

    January 17 2110
    I have a small garden pond of approx 8×6 of which is well established with much wild life especially frogs, the pool has been in my garden for the past 9 years. As many other people have reported I was alarmed to find today many of my frogs floating on top of the pool all appear dead,I have over the past few weeks tried to keep air holes open. I wish to receive advice as to whether the frogs are dead or are in a state of hibernation, as I have read different conflicting opinions as to whether they have perished or not. I would hate to think of taking the frogs from their habitate presumed dead when they are not, especially when there is so many . It does seem from all other comments that they have been lost to the severe conditions but would welcome ant relovant comment. I live in Wolverhampton West Midlands.

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Hi Andrea

      I’m sorry to say I think they are probably dead.

      We at Pond Conservation will shortly be asking people to help us find out more about the the conditions in ponds during the freeze as part of a special extension to our Big Pond Dip survey. We’re interested in ponds where frogs and newts have survived, and also where, like yours, they have sadly succumbed to the cold weather.

      You can see the kind of thing we’ll be asking in my reply to Anne Spragge yesterday.

      At present, we’re pretty certain that making air holes doesn’t make any difference to oxygen levels. However, there does remain a question about whether air holes might let methane, carbon dioxide or hydrogen sulphide out of the pond, which might otherwise build up under ice and possibly poison amphibians.


  22. Annette Says:

    I am really sad. I took 18 dead frogs out of my pond today following the extended frozen spell. I am sure many of these frogs have been in the pond for years.

    How can I replace them before my son returns from school at the weekend?

  23. Jeremy Biggs Says:

    Hi Annette

    You’re right – it’s very upsetting for everyone who sees their favourite animals meeting an untimely end like this.

    I’m afraid to say there’s nothing you’re going to be able to do to get the frogs back as quickly as the weeked.

    The only thing I can say is that the frogs in the pond may not be the only ones hibernating nearby – there could well be others out on dry land in the vicinty.

    So it’s possible that frogs will still return to you pond in the spring. Last year I had people reporting quite big frog mortalities after the cold weather in the late winter who were still lucky enough to have frogs breeding.

    Actually the Common Frog as a species is adapted to this problem of deaths under the ice. Because frogs do often hibernate in the bottom of ponds, populations sometimes suffer these catestrophic losses but then bounce back. It’s a risk in the life of frogs that the species has evolved to cope with.

    Not much of a consolation for those that died (or for you) – but not as tragic in the bigger scheme of things as it initially seems.

    One final thought – if you could bear to tell us more about your pond and what has happended to it during the freeze by completing the Big Pond Thaw form that would be really helpful.

    We’re trying to find out more about the ponds where fish and frogs have died so we can try to find ways of helping people to avoid the problem in the future.

    Everyone says keep a hole open: but I’ve had people reporting to me breaking the ice and still they have dead frogs.


  24. Pat Hubbard Says:

    Having suffered the worst winter for many years here in the fens I just had a quick look at my pond which was still frozen over at the deepest part at the weekend. It is 3 years old with plenty of oxygenating weed and marginal plants with a water lily in the deepest part. It is about 14′ by 4′ and 2′ 6″ in the middle with a gentle ‘beach’ at one end so birds and animals can access it safely (no fish it is purely for wildlife). I noticed many frogs in one area at the surface. On closer inspection I realised they were all dead. I have just fished out 22 large dead frogs which I assume have died due to the length of the big freeze here. I am hoping that this is going to be all there are and that there may still be few surviving at the bottom.

  25. Mark Brayne Says:

    Oh dear – wish I’d read this page before the freeze was over. I just cast a glance at our small pond in the Cotswolds to check that our two goldfish were OK. They weren’t. Dead at the bottom, together with about 30 bloated dead frogs large and small hanging like ghosts in the water. Terribly sad – and let’s hope life comes back in the spring. The water smells foul, so I have at least switched the pump back on to circulate water out through the filter – switched off during the frost as it would have jammed up anyway.

  26. J.Henman Says:

    We also have found six large dead frogs now the pond is
    not iced over. We also had quite a few sticklebacks but
    they also have died.

  27. Fred Says:

    carefull your not throwing out alive frogs.

    Frogs’ bodies have some natural antifreeze chemicals built into them, but a few kinds of frogs who live in especially cold climates can even survive being frozen solid.

    We casually say they hibernate, but frogs actually estivate. That means to pass the time in a state of dormancy or torpor. Frogs estivate to escape unusually hot or dry weather as well as the freezing temperatures of winter.

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Hi Fred

      I think you’re right – we probably do need to be careful not to throw ‘dead’ frogs out too quickly. I know there’s some evidence that even our common Rana temporaria can survive a day of freezing, though that might only happen further north than the UK.

      Maybe one can use both aestivate and hibernate? I see some specialists in what happens to overwintering amphibians do use the the term hibernation. For example, in a recent fairly heavyweight report on overwintering of frogs, Glenn Tattersall and Gordon Ultsch (both in the US) use the term hibernation. So talking about our Rana temporaria they say: “Hibernation is typically aquatic, with frogs often migrating in large numbers to suitable sites”. Though as I’m not any kind of expert of hibernation or aestivation I don’t know whether they are unusual in their terminology.

  28. Abbi Says:

    After asking on my local Freegle website for help, a member has kindly provided the link to your site. On opening my curtains yesterday morning I saw the distressing sight of a dozen frogs floating on the top of my tiny pond. After draining it, I counted twenty of the poor creatures, all bloated and fully-grown. I have a shallow end to the pond and large stones for access in and out, as well as oxygenating plants – what else can I do to prevent this from happening again please?

  29. Victoria Says:

    Can someone please tell me how to differenciate between a dead frog and one which is merely hibernating?

    It is the end of January and here in southwestern PA (USA), after some bitter cold temps in late December thru kid-January, we had a thaw. I had been keeping a large hole in the ice which formed on my 8’x10’x8-18″ deep pond, but when I looked at it this morning (the ice has all melted) I saw 5 green frogs in various states of “floating”. One has its tongue hanging out, another is on its side, another on its back, yet another is wedged between a rock shelf… The temperature of the water is 42F. The outside air temp today is 48F but we are heading into another cold spell of daily highs in the mid-20’s.

    All of the goldfish appear to be fine.

    Any advice, or websites where I may find this info?

  30. Jeremy Biggs Says:

    Hi Victoria

    Not sure what kind of frogs you’ve got but if they’re alive I think they should probably be moving and responding.

    Frogs that hibernate can still be active so they can seek out the best oxygenated spots in the pond.

    But if there’s no oxygen they will be in trouble – and aren’t able to survive more than a few days.

    Your goldfish are more resistant than frogs and could last for several weeks without oxygen when water temperatures are close to freezing.


  31. Victoria Says:

    Jeremy, thanks so much for your reply. I lifted one of the larger frogs (the one that was floating on its side) out of the pond in a net and while my husband dug a final resting place for it, I stroked its belly, then turned it over and its eyes began to open! So I quickly placed it on the bottom in the deepest part of the pond. After that, I moved all of them (except the one that had its mouth open and tongue hanging out) into that area as well. The last one we did bury. We shall see, in March, what happens.

    Oh, and sorry for the lack of info, they are all green frogs.

    I am going to do some research, and we may even make the pond deeper this summer, so I can avoid this situation in the future.

  32. David Says:

    Hi everyone, I live in Co. Monaghan in Ireland and I have a small pond (8′ x 6′ x 30″ deep). After the cold spell, I have so far lost 7 goldfish and carp and 5 large and about 7 small frogs. Should I try to get my pond pump up and running again or let it be until the spring? My pond is well established with plenty of oxygenating plants in it.

  33. Marie-Anne Says:

    I have a bath tub at the back of the garden with bricks and concrete block to encourage wild life to visit or live. I was so exited when I saw a mass of frogs eggs. The thought that a mother frog assessed my bath tub as descent for her babies… Today my heart fills with guilt. Because of the cold, I fished 10 dead frogs which got frozen trapped under the ice. I came to the drastic decision to get rid of the pond, but should I. I will built a little memorial in their memory. I am ashamed, shocked and disgusted. What should I do. Is there any way I could avoided this genocide? What should I do for next year. Please help!!!!

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Dear Marie-Anne – I really don’t think you should be so hard on yourself – and really I wouldn’t get rid of your pond! This year has been exceptional – many ponds where frogs normally survive the winter happily have run out of oyxgen beneath snow and ice, with the inevitable consequence for the frogs.

      But frog populations are pretty resilient, and although you have lost your animals it’s quite likely that others that overwintered on land will still be around.

      In fact frogs are a ‘boom and bust’ animal – they take their chances where they can – often this works out for them, but sometimes they bet wrong.

      So really it’s not your fault the mother frog chose your bath – she was basing her decision on millions of years evolution to make this choice.

      And don’t forget that some of the tadpoles – the next generation – that were raised in the pond last year will probably have survived in your and neighbouring gardens.

      So for the frogs sake – I think you should keep the pond. They will be back, and you will go on having the joy they bring.

  34. Carly Says:

    Hi I have just found this website after looking into our pond and noticing two frogs on the bottom of it. Not sure how long they have been there as I have only just moved in. They look like common frogs, and one is laying upside down on the bottom of the pond, while the other is on top of it normal way up but neither of them are moving at all. I dont want to disturb them if I can help it so I was just wondering if this is normal or if you think they could be dead? I have no knowledge of frogs so any comments will be appreciated.

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Hi Carly

      I’m afraid the bad new is they’ve almost certainly seccumbed to the cold weather – probably running out of oxygen when snow covered the ponds.


  35. rose Says:

    all fish and frogs died this winter in our deep water ponds, never had this happen befor….ice melted and dead fish and frogs….on the bottom of the ponds….

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Hi Rose

      It would be interesting to see some pictures of your ponds. Do you have any photos I could write a post about?


  36. rose Says:

    forgot to mention that this is in the thumb of michigan all the fish frogs died some fish 32 inchs and field ponds…deep and large

  37. Tony Says:

    Interesting, I have just checked and we have about 15 frogs in the pond, about five are upside down at the bottom, the rest which are nearer the top, are alive. All fish are fine though.

  38. Debbie Mc Says:

    I fished out a dozen fully grown common frogs that were dead dead dead from our small garden pond today. Never had to do this ever before in the 17 years that we have had a pond. Disgusting smell – horrible bloated bodies. yeuk!

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Dear Debbie
      Hi Debbie

      You’re not alone – 500 people have reported back to us on the ponds where they have (mostly) seen dead amphibians after the freeze.

      Some people also (helpfully for us) telling us about ponds where no amphibian mortalities were seen.

      If you have a few minutes, do please go to the Big Pond Thaw page on Pond Conservation website and tell us about the pond.


  39. jane Says:

    My 5 children came to me yesterday and told me that there were 6 dead frogs in our small pond. I was horrified to see them all differents shapes and sizes (I know very little about frogs). My mum and I fished them out and have placed them elsewhere just incase they should survive, and also to protect the childrens feelings.
    I never even knew this could happen and feel so bad and sorry for them all. I’m going to do my best to make sure this never happens again.

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Hi Jane – during the cold weather lot’s of people have been finding dead frogs (and sometimes newts and toads) in their ponds. I think you shouldn’t worry too much because, although its sad for your frogs, its something that frogs take a risk on as a species – that its safe under the water overwinter. In most winters there will be enough oxygen for them to live safely all winter long under the water – sometimes though, when its very cold, there won’t be enough oxygen. Jeremy

  40. Sally Says:

    My little but well established pond had 25 goulish looking corpses floating or just under the surface. Most were bloated, one had it’s eyes missing, and a couple were hooked up together like in the spring. What a shame – but I’m glad to read this blog and see that it’s not some nasty virus just in my pond.

  41. Graham Says:

    I have a small garden pond [actually its an old bath cunningly disguised] here in the historic city of Lincoln. During the cold spell in December I noticed frogs chancing it in the pond. I broke the ice and fished them out. All appeared dead. I thawed them out in tepid water. Three were dead but another 12 made it. I put them in a bucket in my garage with some organic matter. There they stayed [incredibly at one stage becoming almost frozen solid during late December]. I released them this week during the mild spell. Here in Lincoln we normally see frogspawn during the first two weeks of March.

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