Carpenter Frog
Lithobates virgatipes

Common Name:

Carpenter Frog 

Scientific Name:

Lithobates virgatipes



Lithobates is Greek, Litho means "A stone", bates means "One that walks or haunts."


virgatipes is Latin meaning "striped foot" Referring to the striped markings found on rear feet.

Average Length:

1.6 - 2.6 in. (4.1 - 6.7 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

Record length:

Virginia Wildlife Action Plan Rating Tier III - High Conservation Need - Extinction or extirpation is possible. Populations of these species are in decline or have declined to low levels or are in a restricted range. Management action is needed to stabilize or increase populations.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This is a medium-sized ranid species ranging in length from 41 to 67 mm (1-5/8 to 2-5/8 in) *11407* *1014*. It is generally brown in color with irregularly shaped dark markings on the dorsum *9286*. There are 4 yellowish dorsolateral stripes and the rear of the thigh has alternating light and dark stripes *1014*. These markings give it excellent camouflage *1014* *11407* *9286*. The ventrum is whitish with dark mottling which may be absent in pale individuals *9286*. Dorsal surface of the legs and cloacal region is slightly granular in comparison to other skin surfaces. The hind feet have long, completely webbed toes. Tadpoles live over 1 year in the larval stage and thus can grow very large (average 55mm, up to 100mm) *9286*. The tadpoles are brown with a dark lateral stripe on the tail musculature and a characteristic narrow dark stripe on the dorsal tail fin.

REPRODUCTION: Breeding occurs in semi-permanent bodies of water *11284*. In Virginia males have been heard calling as early as late March, however, they are only known to breed from late April to late June *9286*. Beyond this, little is known of their reproductive activity in Virginia. Across their range, the males of this species are territorial using advertisement calls to attract females and to identify their positions relative to other males. The breeding call is double-noted and resembles the sound of carpenters hammering nails, "pu-tunk, pu-tunk, pu-tunk" or "clack-it, clack-it, clack-it" *11407* *1014*. The call is typically repeated 3 to 6 times in rapid succession *1014*. The egg mass is described as a flattened or globular cluster of 200 to 600 eggs *1014*. After hatching, this species remains in the larval stage for over 1 year and may become very large *1014* *9286*.

BEHAVIOR: This species is very closely associated with water and is rarely found on land *9286*. It is sometimes referred to as the "sphagnum frog" because of its preference for sphagnum bogs *11407*. They are very difficult to capture or observe because of their cryptic coloration. Males are territorial and use advertisement calls to attract females and identify their positions relative to other males *9286*. This species is carnivorous and preys upon arthropods and other small animals that it can swallow. They typically feed in shallow areas of ponds or while sitting on emergent vegetation mats, logs, or floating peat.

ORIGIN: Native

LIMITING FACTORS: This species is very closely associated with water and seems to lack the ability to readily disperse upon disturbance *9286*. Therefore, this species is limited or threatened by habitat alteration in its range in southeast Virginia. It is also susceptible to drought as it requires standing water with abundant amounts of emergent and floating vegetation *11284*.

POPULATION PARAMETERS: Its population numbers appear to be declining due to habitat loss and alteration in southeast Virginia *9286*.

AQUATIC/TERRESTRIAL ASSOCIATIONS: In Virginia, this species is known to occur in acid swamps and ponds in the Coastal Plain *9286*. It is typically associated with standing, lentic water with abundant submerged or emergent vegetation including pine savanna bogs or ponds *9286* *1014* *11284*. Across its range, this species is closely associated with the presence of sphagnum *11284* *9286* *11407*. It is strongly associated to aquatic habitats and is rarely found on land *9286*.

References for Life History

  • 1014 - Martof, B.S., Palmer, W.M., Bailey, J.R., Harrison, III J.R., 1980, Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, 264 pgs., UNC Press, Chapel Hill, NC
  • 9286 - Terwilliger, K.T., 1991, Virginia's endangered species: Proceedings of a symposium. Coordinated by the Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries, Nongame and Endangered Species Program, 672 pp. pgs., McDonald and Woodward Publ. Comp., Blacksburg, VA
  • 11284 - Wilson, L.A., 1995, Land manager's guide to the amphibians and reptiles of the South, 360 pp. pgs., The Nature Conservancy, Southeastern Region, Chapel Hill, NC
  • 11406 - Duellman, William E. and, Trueb, Linda, 1986, Biology of Amphibians, 671 pgs., The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore
  • 11407 - Conant, Roger and, Collins, John T., 1998, Peterson Field Guide: Reptiles and Amphibians, Eastern/Central North America, 616 pgs., Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston


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Verified County/City Occurrence

Caroline County
Chesapeake City
Hanover County
King and Queen County
King William County
Southampton County
Spotsylvania County
Suffolk City
Sussex County
Virginia Beach City
Verified in 10 Counties/Cities.

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