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How to Prevent Frogs Dying in Our Pond?

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 24 May 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Frogs Spawning Bloated Death Adults

Q.

Is there more we can do to prevent the death of frogs in our mixed wildlife and fish pond? It's big – 12 feet deep at its centre – but with shallows, sloping shingle and plenty of other means of escape. There are plants, floating branches and currently a large bail of straw to help prevent the build-up of green water. I netted four bloated corpses out just today (late March), one with a live frog still clinging to it. The fish have yet to rise so I don't suspect any of them in the carnage.

(W.S, 21 April 2009)

A.

Although the odd dead frog is something every pond keeper is likely to come across every now and then, four in one day is going it a bit! Unfortunately the fact that they’re bloated doesn’t give much of a clue as to what might be behind things; that’s just something that happens to frogs once they’re dead.

I think you’re absolutely right not to suspect any involvement by your fish on this occasion. While fish and small, edible tadpoles don’t mix very successfully, unless your pond is full of pike or piranha (and I’m assuming yours isn’t, obviously!) adult frogs aren’t much bothered by them.

Exhaustion

Obviously, it’s a bit difficult to be absolutely certain, but I think exhaustion seems the most likely explanation for the deaths, especially if where you live, spawning was well underway by the end of March.

It’s principally a problem for 'early' females; when they arrive at the pond at the start of the breeding season, they can often be grabbed by a large number of potential suitors, with some staying on-board long after she has spawned, particularly if she is too weak to force them off. The net result of all the exertion involved in wrestling with over-amorous males, the actual spawning itself and then trying to leave can sometimes exhaust a female to the point where she has just used up all her reserves and sadly, dies. Your description of a dead frog with a live one – which I’d guess was smaller and male – clinging on to it would seem to bear this idea out. Females arriving later in the season don’t seem to be mobbed so completely, which makes exhaustion deaths less common towards the end of spawning.

A similar thing can happen to male frogs too – particularly older or weaker ones, for whom the whole hurly-burly of competing for the females simply saps their strength.

An Ongoing Problem?

If this wasn’t an isolated incident, however and these recent deaths are part of an ongoing problem, then there may be something else at work but just what, is difficult to say. The good news, however, is that it’s unlikely to be either of the two most well-publicised 'frog-killers' – chytrid fungus or ranavirus.

To date 'chytrid fungus' – Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis – has only been seen in three locations in the UK while ranavirus usually comes with easily spotted symptoms, including emaciation, skin ulcers, rotting limbs and bleeding. Besides, it’s most prevalent when the temperature tops 25 degrees C, making it an unlikely suspect for frog deaths in late-March, no matter where in Britain you live!

If you do find that you’re seeing more dead frogs – especially out of the breeding season, when spawning exhaustion obviously doesn’t apply – it’s well worth getting in touch with your local wildlife trust or the Institute of Zoology (who run the Frog Mortality Project in partnership with Froglife).

Hopefully, however, you’ll have no more dead frogs to worry about – just swarms of tadpoles to watch growing up (well apart from the ones the fish eat, anyway!).

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I had a large number of tadpoles on Sunday at my allotment plot pond and by Wednesday they had changed to baby frogs and all were dead.I have no idea how 30-40 frogs could die within a matter of days
Jo - 24-May-18 @ 1:07 PM
Mand - Your Question:
HiI have a dead frog and I wondered if I need to remove it or let nature take its course? I’m not suspicious a male is clinging to her I think it’s exhaustion TIA

Our Response:
This is what the FrogLife organisation says: "Remove from the pond, if necessary, and bury or burn the bodies to prevent the spread of disease. Although disease is often not the cause of amphibian deaths it is best to be cautious when disposing of bodies. Burning or burying the dead frogs/toads is the best method - avoid compost heaps/waste vegetation piles, as bodies can be carried off by scavengers, and your green waste bin as this would involve the bodies being transported elsewhere. One or two dead frogs/toads in a pond will not cause any problems but you may wish to remove them as they’re unsightly and too many decomposing bodies can overload the pond with nutrients."
PondExpert - 23-Mar-18 @ 12:19 PM
Hi I have a dead frog and I wondered if I need to remove it or let nature take its course? I’m not suspicious a male is clinging to her I think it’s exhaustion TIA
Mand - 20-Mar-18 @ 5:35 PM
I have just seen in my garden 3 dead frogs and have just had a feel around in the pond and have pUlley out 12 more dead frogs and 3 alive. I live in Bristol where last week we were hit by the Beast form the East and had heavy snow and the pond froze over. Theread is alothe odd spawn in the pond aswell. Do you think that the frogs froze to death and would the spawn be dead or alive??? I'm also concerned that the frogs I pulled might be hybinating. (If they do?)
Emmielou - 11-Mar-18 @ 2:27 PM
I have just found isix dead frogs in my pond , today four last week and two the week before. They have all spawned and it hatching but I am worried they will all die!!. My pond is clean and well areated.,
lollypops - 8-Apr-16 @ 8:00 AM
Two baby frogs, undamaged, were found dead in an inch of water, about 10 feet away from the pond. Any ideas?
pops - 27-Jul-15 @ 1:58 PM
Could the frogs have become entangled in thick weeds and unable to swim to the surface? i had a lot of dead frogs last year and wondered about that...?
csb - 9-Apr-14 @ 5:40 PM
Hi, I live in Surrey and having just fished out the 4th (very emaciated) dead frog out of my pond, I am starting to get worried. Unfortunately due to the frost end of March, I think most of the spawn has been killed off as well. I don't have any fish and the newts appear to be doing well. Any ideas?
Manuela - 26-Apr-13 @ 9:12 AM
We have had many noisy frogs and/or toads in our pond. No sign of any frog spawn but today all we have are dead ones floating on top of the pond . They are nowburied. Presumably we will not get any more now which is a great shame I have heard that frogs and toads return to their pond to mate.. In the past we have only ever had the odd dead frog. Can we hope for more next year?
WhittonJ - 25-Apr-13 @ 4:11 PM
Yes,the same problem. I seem to finding up to 6 dead frogs each day. The spawn is in the pond. Should we clean the pond, I know there are quite. Few old leaves in it. I have no fish and try not to use chemicals near the area of the pond. So far we have had abut 15 dead frogs. Any ideas?
Hilda - 18-Apr-13 @ 5:24 PM
I have lost 2 frogs in 2 days they are just floating in the pond why does this happen?
pat - 1-Apr-11 @ 7:24 PM
We had about 30 frogs in a quite small pond and they layed a large amount of spawn; but then last Saturday 5 frogs were dead on the lawn mostly on their back. The next day 4 more deceased, two in the pond. Then over the next few days a couple more each day. Some were still just alive but seemed to lack co-ordination in their limbs and when they tried to jump ended up on their back. The fish in the pond are quite happy. Some frogs made it up to the top pond normally reserved for newts. But two have died in that pond. Any ideas?
kcfez - 29-Mar-11 @ 3:55 PM
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