Frogs & toads: in my garden
I found a frog/toad, what shall I do?
Unless the animal is in danger you do not need to move it or do anything for it.
Amphibians spend the majority of their life on land and are often found in gardens, sometimes hundreds of metres from the nearest waterbody. Common Frogs are frequently found in urban areas and gardens are an important amphibian habitat in their own right.
If the animal is trapped or in danger – e.g. you’ve found it near a road or in a part of the garden you’re working on – release it into a nearby suitable habitat or another part of the garden. Choose somewhere that provides cover from predators and extreme weather, such as in a compost heap, underneath a garden shed or near/underneath dense foliage; it does not need to be in a pond.
There are too many frogs/toads in the pond/garden, what shall I do?
Nothing! Gatherings of breeding amphibians or froglets/toadlets that have left the pond en masse will soon naturally disperse.
During spring amphibians return to ponds to breed. In garden ponds, Common Frogs can be particularly numerous during the Spring/Summer months. Sometimes more than fifty frogs can return to one pond, leading to the popular concern that it’s ‘overcrowded’. This is a completely natural phenomenon, typical of amphibian populations around the world.
Amphibian populations naturally fluctuate with some years being particularly successful leading to large numbers of adults gathering; but then in subsequent years the numbers are not sustained and they then drop down.
The majority of breeding Common Frogs and Common Toads will not stay around the pond area for more than a few weeks. Male amphibians arrive earlier than females and there can be a few weeks before breeding actually commences. Spawning can last for a few days or a couple of weeks, depending on the weather, and activity will then decline, with adults moving to different parts of the pond or leaving the water completely. In the case of common toads, the vast majority will only spend a small amount of time in the water.
During the summer you may notice large numbers of tiny emerging common frogs and common toads leaving the pond after they have fully metamorphosed. Again, this is completely natural (safety in numbers!) – most will disperse over the following days and weeks. Only a small proportion of these will survive to return as adults – amphibians play an important role in food chains and many will fall prey to other wildlife.
We do not advise that you attempt to move frogs, toads or their spawn away from your pond: by taking them to a different pond you may unwittingly transfer various diseases and invasive plants. Also, many amphibians may try to return and there is a danger that some may suffer as a result of being placed in an unsuitable area.
There are no frogs/toads in the pond/ garden or the population is declining, what’s going on?
The absence of frogs or toads could be linked to the weather or changes to local habitats.
Depending on the time of year and the weather, it may still be too early for amphibians to be returning to the pond. Frogs and toads breed in the spring when they migrate towards water; this migration is weather dependent (they prefer mild, wet evenings) and so is determined by location – it tends to occur later in the north and east of the country and earlier in the south.
In some cases, lack of breeding amphibians in your pond could be the result of a population decline locally. This might be an indicator of pond loss: ponds form ‘stepping stones’ for amphibians across a landscape – if ponds disappear, so can local populations of amphibians. Their terrestrial habitats are just as important, amphibians spend a lot of time on land, foraging, sheltering / hibernating and colonising new areas; if these areas or ‘corridors’ have been blocked (by a new road or even a fence) or destroyed (through development), the route to your garden may have been lost.
Amphibian populations can fluctuate dramatically year on year, so having years with low numbers of amphibians can be a natural phenomenon and nothing to worry about. If no breeding adults appear in your pond, there may be other juvenile amphibians in the area that will turn up next year as breeding adults (frogs take two or three years to reach breeding age). An outbreak of disease in previous years or a particularly hard winter could also impact on numbers returning. You may be tempted to introduce some spawn from elsewhere to try and help your local population but we advise against this. By moving spawn you can accidentally introduce diseases and invasive pond plants.
Where can I get frogs/toads for my pond/garden?
Movement of animals between ponds is potentially risky and should be avoided; they normally arrive of their own accord.
We do not recommend introducing animals or their spawn to your pond as you can accidentally spread invasive plants, animals and diseases. In most parts of the UK, amphibians (particularly common frogs and smooth newts) should find their own way to ponds, as long as they are in the area and can access the garden. If they don’t, there may be a reason for this so it may not be suitable to introduce them.
It can take two years or more for a pond to colonise so you do not need to be concerned if your pond is not immediately inundated with amphibians.
What the law says
All wild, native amphibians (adults and spawn) are protected against sale/trade. Please inform us if you see amphibians being sold (including on internet auction sites); it is legal to buy/sell exotic or captive bred individuals/spawn though this should be stated in the advert.
How can I encourage them?
Creating frog-friendly features like ponds, compost heaps and log piles will encourage amphibians into your garden if it is accessible to the local population.
Amphibians require ponds to breed, so adding a pond to your garden is the best way to encourage them. Consider size, shape and location of your pond before starting work; avoid adding fish as they will feed on spawn (see Just Add Water).
If you do not have a pond (or space to create one), your garden can still benefit amphibians and they may make use of it if there are water bodies near by. You could think about a bog garden or small water feature instead.
Amphibians spend the majority of their life on land and make use of a variety of habitats in which they forage, shelter and overwinter (hibernate). They will use log and stone piles, long grass, compost heaps and even nooks and crannies under your shed, decking or greenhouse. Habitats that provide shelter, stay damp and provide a good source of insects and slugs to feed on are particularly beneficial.
Common Toads usually migrate to ancestral breeding ponds in spring and are associated with larger ponds (fish ponds, reservoirs and farmland ponds) but are known to breed in some garden ponds. Toads lay their eggs in long chains which they wrap around submerged vegetation.
I need to work on the pond, what shall I do with the frogs/toads in it?
Keep amphibians out of harms way and release back into the garden afterwards.
Ideally, delay pond maintenance until late autumn (September/October), so that tadpoles have been given time to metamorphose and before adult frogs return to the pond to hibernate (male frogs may lie dormant on the bottom of the pond during winter).
If you need to carry out the work more urgently place any amphibians you find in a tank or suitable container, preferably with a little bit of pond water and some vegetation, while you do the work and return them to a secluded part of the garden when you’ve finished.
Occasionally tadpoles remain in the pond over the winter and develop the following spring, so be sure to be check the pond carefully at any time of year before starting work.
If you are considering filling in your pond because of safety concerns we advise you to consider installing some simple safety precautions for the pond instead. Removing a pond can be very detrimental to local wildlife, particularly as adult amphibians will have nowhere to spawn when they return the following spring.
There is no organisation that will remove animals from your garden.
I’ve found a toad, is it harmful to my pets?
Probably not, though occasionally pets can have an allergic reaction to the toxin.
Common Toads produce a toxin from the pair of paratoid glands on their back. This makes them distasteful to predators and is not designed to be fatal. Many dogs and cats ignore amphibians but some do show an interest. Very rarely, a pet can suffer an allergic reaction to the toxin – if this happens, seek veterinary attention immediately.
There is no one who will come and remove toads or other amphibians from you garden. If you wish to exclude any species you will need to look at modifying the habitats in your garden so they are less attractive, although bare in mind this will have impacts on all wildlife.
How can I help the frogs/toads in my garden see out the winter?
Amphibians will lie dormant over the winter in ponds, compost heaps or log piles – you only need to be concerned if the pond freezes.
Frogs and toads normally overwinter in places like compost heaps, amongst dead wood or under decking/your shed/other objects. Some amphibians, usually frogs and sometimes newts, will choose to overwinter at the bottom of the pond. You only really need to be concerned about amphibians during winter if the pond freezes over for long periods of time, otherwise they can take care of themselves.
Another option for overwintering amphibians is a frog or toad ‘home’. These can be made or bought and will provide a safe place for amphibians to ‘hibernate’.
Amphibians may choose to come out and forage during milder periods of weather so don’t worry if you see them around quite late in the year or if you accidentally disturb them.
How will climate change affect amphibians in my garden?
The full impacts of climate change on amphibians are not fully understood. However, evidence suggests that an increase in warmer winters may have a negative impact on amphibians.
The effects of increasing winter temperature on amphibians in the UK remain unclear, with a mix of possible positive and negative effects. There is growing evidence that warmer winter temperatures may result in amphibians utilising greater fat reserves, leading to lower body condition, growing to smaller size and reducing fecundity. This has been demonstrated for both great crested newts1 and common toads2 over a period of several decades. However, other recent research has shown that during shorter, milder winters, juvenile common toads may benefit through increased survival as they are vulnerable to colder temperatures3. In warmer conditions, amphibians may be at greater risk of contracting disease and research has demonstrated that frogs are more susceptible to Ranavirus in warmer conditions4. Warmer temperatures coupled with dry conditions may result in ponds drying out earlier in the spring or summer, leaving tadpoles unable to metamorphose.
During mild conditions at the end of winter (mid-February to early March) amphibians may become active and you are more likely to see frogs, toads and newts earlier than normal. This is unlikely to be a problem in the short term because if the weather turns cold they will return to sheltered areas. If temperatures remain mild throughout the winter and pond levels remain low, this may have an impact on common frogs and newts later in the year as ponds may dry before the tadpoles can metamorphose.
1Griffiths, R. A., Sewell, D. and McCrea, R. S. (2010) Dynamics of a declining amphibian metapopulation: survival dispersal and the impact of climate. Biological Conservation, 143: 485-491.
2Reading, C. J. (2007) Linking global warming to amphibian declines through its effects on female body condition and survivorship. Oecologia, 151: 125-131.
3Üveges, B., Mahr, K., Szederkényi, M., Bókony, V., Hoi, H. and Hettyey, A. (2016) Experimental evidence for beneficial effects of projected climate change on hibernating amphibians. Nature Scientific Reports, 6:26754; doi: 10.1038/srep26754.
4Brand, M. D., Hill, R. D., Brenes, R., Chaney, J. C., Wilkes, R. P., Grayfer, L., Miller, D. L. and Gray, M. J. (2016) Water temperature affects susceptibility to Ranavirus. Ecohealth, 13 (2): 350-359.