Do Frogs Hibernate? What Do Frogs Do in the Winter?

Written by Katelynn Sobus
Published: February 27, 2022
© abdul hafiz ab hamid/Shutterstock.com
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Frogs do hibernate, and the process looks different depending on the species. They may rest on the mud at the bottom of the water, burrow themselves deep into the ground, or nest under foliage debris with their bodies frozen until temperatures thaw.

If you’ve ever wondered why you don’t see frogs in the winter, this is why!

Hibernation occurs when an animal’s metabolism slows down, allowing them to survive winter. Frogs go dormant and show little to no movement—some even appear dead or frozen!

In this article, we’ll talk all about frog hibernation, what the process looks like for different species, and where frogs go in the winter.

Do Frogs Hibernate?

Sleeping green tree frog
When frogs hibernate their metabolism slows and they take measures to prevent organs from freezing.

©Irina Kozorog/Shutterstock.com

Yes, frogs do hibernate in the winter months. Depending on the species, they may burrow underground, hide beneath leaves, or lurk at the bottom of a pond.

Their metabolism slows down, and glucose levels rise in their essential organs to prevent them from freezing completely.

This is much-needed because frogs don’t regulate their own body temperatures. Without elevated glucose levels, they would freeze and die in the winter.

Frogs don’t eat much during the winter, though they may come out to scavenge for food in mild temperatures.

At What Temperatures do Frogs Hibernate?

Frogs hibernate when temperatures drop below freezing. This allows them to stay alive during these cold months when food is harder to come by, and external temperatures cause their body temperature to drop.

Some species, such as tree frogs, will go into hibernation in even warmer temperatures. These frogs hibernate when temps drop below 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Can You Tell if a Frog is Hibernating?

American Bullfrog in a pond
Frogs will bury themselves under debris while hibernating.

©LizzyB33/Shutterstock.com

Most hibernating frogs you come across day-to-day will be above the surface of the soil, buried under debris. If it is below freezing, these frogs will likely appear dead.

What happens to these frogs during hibernation is that most of their bodies freeze. They won’t breathe, and their hearts won’t beat—that’s how slowed down their system gets!

By looking at them, you can’t know whether the frogs are hibernating or dead. However, a good rule of thumb is that frogs found in the winter months are likely hibernating. Those found in temperatures above freezing are, sadly, likely to be dead.

How Long can Frogs Live Without Food?

Young frogs can survive without food for just 1-3 days. Once they grow older, they can go without food for up to 3-4 weeks. This isn’t healthy for them, though, and many frogs will die before this timeframe.

Hibernation is a different story, however. It can last months, and some frogs can go this entire time without eating! Others may forage when temperatures rise above freezing, then go back to their dormant state.

Frogs can go longer without eating during hibernation because their metabolism slows down. Some species will even freeze over during the winter, the glucose sugars in their bodies (which act as antifreeze) the only thing keeping them alive.

Hibernation: Aquatic vs Terrestrial Frogs

Some aquatic frogs hibernate deep within the water. They lie on top of the muddy surface or just beneath it, never burying themselves fully. This allows them to take in oxygen through the water around them since frogs breathe through their skin.

Aquatic frogs may even swim around slowly at the bottom of the water, never straying far from the ground’s surface where temperatures are warmest.

Terrestrial frogs, however, will burrow deep into the ground where the frost won’t reach them. Some species cannot dig well, so instead, they hide out in natural debris such as leaf piles or log crevices.

Frogs closer to the surface will freeze, but those heightened glucose levels we discussed earlier will keep them alive until they can thaw out.

Do Pet Frogs Hibernate?

Some pet frogs need a hibernation period, while others don’t. Whenever you adopt a new pet, you need to ensure you’re providing proper care. This includes knowing whether or not they hibernate and how to care for a hibernating frog.

One reason this is important is that you might mistake a hibernating frog for dead if you don’t know better!

Where do Frogs go in Summer?

Rain Frogs - Tree Frog in Rain
During the summer many frogs disappear again to avoid the most intense heat of the year.

©Vladimir Turkenich/Shutterstock.com

Frogs do not hibernate in the summer. However, many species will bury themselves underground. It may seem like all the terrestrial frogs in your area disappear during the summer months!

This is because they are avoiding the heat and the harsh rays of the sun by burrowing.They will emerge once temperatures cool.

In dry climates, frogs might also burrow themselves underground and surround themselves in a waterproof cocoon made of their own skin! Their exposed nostrils allow them to breathe until the rains return.

This process is called estivation.

How Long do Frogs Live?

You may have thought that frogs died during the winter since you don’t see them during these months. This would mean a very short lifespan.

However, hibernation allows frogs to survive winter and generally live for around 3 years.

A frog in captivity may live 10-20 years or even more, depending on the species. Some are shorter-lived, and some lucky frogs live even longer lives than this!


The Featured Image

Sleeping frog
© abdul hafiz ab hamid/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I'm an animal writer of four years with a primary focus on educational pet content. I want our furry, feathery, and scaley friends to receive the best care possible! In my free time, I'm usually outdoors gardening or spending time with my nine rescue pets.

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