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The squirrel tree frog (Hyla squirella) is a small tree frog native to the southeastern United States. This species can be found along the Atlantic coastal plain from southeastern Virginia to Florida Keys, and west along the gulf plain to southeastern Texas. It has also been introduced to Grand Bahama Island and Little Bahama Bank.
Adults squirrel tree frogs are small, about 4 cm (1.75 inches) in length. They have a range of coloration, from brown to yellow to green, with a variety of markings. Furthermore, squirrel tree frogs are able to change color, in order to camouflage themselves against their background. This variability makes them difficult to identify and they are easily confused with similar treefrog species (for e.g. green treefrogs, Hyla cinerea). Large toepads allow them to cling to leaves and tree trunks. One of the most common frog species in Florida, they live in a range of natural habitats and also in urban areas, on shrub and trees, in bromeliads, in gardens, on buildings, trash piles, vegetation tangles, and along roads.
Squirrel tree frogs are most active during spring and summer. They are mainly nocturnal, and can be found hunting insects around lights at night. They often announce a rainstorm by making a “rain call,” and during daytime rainstorms they will also become active. Between March and October they migrate to breeding areas, usually shallow temporary water bodies where fish are absent. They especially prefer open wetlands, marshes, and flooded ditches. Males give a raspy, squirrel-like mating call (recordings available at amphibiaweb). In a breeding season, females lay one clutch of about 1000 sticky eggs, singly or in small groups, on vegetation or on the floor of the pool about 7.5-15 cm (3-6 inches) deep. Eggs hatch within several days, and tadpoles feed on organic and inorganic matter that they scrape from logs, rocks, and plants. Tadpoles metamorphose within about 2 months. During the winter, adult frogs will hibernate in groups together, under bark or in tree trunks or fallen logs.
Populations of squirrel treefrogs occupy coastal estuarine and harsh barrier island habitats. They will breed in pools affected by saltwater spray, and tadpoles have been reported developing in ponds with salinities half that of sea water.
Squirrel treefrogs are preyed upon by mammals, birds, other frogs, ribbon and other snakes and aquatic invertebrates. Tadpoles are susceptible to capture by dragonfly larvae and waterbugs. Frogs regularly cross roads, especially when active on rainy nights, and collisions with autos may be a significant cause of mortality. Because populations are stable over their range, and this species adapts well to moderate disturbance, it is listed as of least concern by the IUCN.
(Johnson 2007; Mitchel and Lannoo 2016)