Hyla chrysoscelis - Cope, 1880
Cope's Gray Treefrog
Other English Common Names: Cope's Grey Treefrog, Cope's gray treefrog
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Hyla chrysoscelis Cope, 1880 (TSN 173502)
French Common Names: rainette criarde
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.103778
Element Code: AAABC02050
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Amphibians - Frogs and Toads
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Amphibia Anura Hylidae Hyla
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Frost, D. R. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. A taxonomic and geographical reference. Allen Press, Inc., and The Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas. v + 732 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B85FRO01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Hyla chrysoscelis
Taxonomic Comments: Not distinguished from look-alike species H. versicolor in much published literature; distinguished by chromosomes, erythrocyte size (Matson 1990), and call characteristics. Natural hybridization between H. versicolor and H. chrysoscelis has been confirmed, but apparently there is severe selection against hybrids (sexually mature hybrids are very rare) (Gerhardt et al. 1994).

Two chromosome morphs reported in chrysoscelis (Wiley 1983); see also Ralin et al. (1983). In 1993 (Bull. Zool. Nomen. 50(1):94-95), a diploid neotype was designated (former type specimen was tetraploid).

Duellman et al. (2016) removed this species from the genus Hyla and included it (and all other U.S./Canada species of Hyla, as well as additional Hyla species in Mexico, Guatemala, and eastern Asia) in the genus Dryophytes (previously recognized as a subgenus).
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 05Jun2015
Global Status Last Changed: 26Oct2001
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Large range in much of eastern United States and a small part of south-central Canada; many secure occurrences.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Nov1996)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N4 (05Jun2015)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Alabama (S5), Arkansas (S4), Delaware (S2), District of Columbia (S4), Florida (SNR), Georgia (S5), Illinois (S4), Indiana (S4), Iowa (S4), Kansas (S5), Kentucky (S5), Louisiana (S5), Maryland (S5), Michigan (S5), Minnesota (S5), Mississippi (SNR), Missouri (S5), Nebraska (S5), New Jersey (S1), North Carolina (S5), Ohio (SNR), Oklahoma (S5), South Carolina (SNR), South Dakota (S2), Tennessee (S5), Texas (S5), Virginia (S5), West Virginia (S4), Wisconsin (S5)
Canada Manitoba (S4)

Other Statuses

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Not at Risk (01Apr1999)
IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Range is not precisely known but includes most of the south-central and southeastern United States and areas west of the Great Lakes, from Manitoba, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, southern Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland south to eastern Texas, the Gulf Coast, and northern Florida (Preston 1982, Holloway et al. 2006). See Little et al. (1989) for information on distribution in West Virginia, southern Ohio, and southwestern Pennsylvania.

Number of Occurrences:  
Number of Occurrences Comments: Represented by many and/or large occurrences throughout most of the range.

Population Size: 100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but likely exceeds 100,000.

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: Likely relatively stable.

Long-term Trend: Decline of <50% to Relatively Stable
Long-term Trend Comments: Likely relatively stable in extent of occurrence, unknown degree of decline in population size, area of occurrence, and number/condition of occurrences.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Moderate to broad.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: Range is not precisely known but includes most of the south-central and southeastern United States and areas west of the Great Lakes, from Manitoba, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, southern Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland south to eastern Texas, the Gulf Coast, and northern Florida (Preston 1982, Holloway et al. 2006). See Little et al. (1989) for information on distribution in West Virginia, southern Ohio, and southwestern Pennsylvania.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NE, NJ, OH, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, WI, WV
Canada MB

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: IUCN, Conservation International, NatureServe, and collaborators, 2004

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
DE New Castle (10003), Sussex (10005)
NJ Atlantic (34001), Cape May (34009), Cumberland (34011), Ocean (34029)
SD Day (46037), Grant (46051), Marshall (46091), Roberts (46109), Stanley (46117), Union (46127)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
02 Delaware Bay (02040204)+, Cohansey-Maurice (02040206)+, Broadkill-Smyrna (02040207)+, Mullica-Toms (02040301)+, Great Egg Harbor (02040302)+, Chincoteague (02040303)+, Chester-Sassafras (02060002)+, Western Lower Delmarva (02080109)+
07 Upper Minnesota (07020001)+
09 Western Wild Rice (09020105)+
10 Fort Randall Reservoir (10140101)+, Upper James (10160003)+, Lewis and Clark Lake (10170101)+, Middle Big Sioux Coteau (10170201)+, Lower Big Sioux (10170203)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: A treefrog.
General Description: This species is essentially identical to the gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor) The upper side has numerous small warts and is usually green (especially juveniles) to gray and often has a pattern that resembles lichens that grow on tree trunks. There is a light spot under each eye. The groin and concealed bases of the hind legs are orange-yellow with black mottling. Maximum size is about 2.5 inches (6 cm) snout-vent length. Breeding male can be recognized by their darl loose throat skin. Breeding calls are loud trills (often mistaken for a woodpecker's call), with pulses emitted faster than in the gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor). Larvae have strongly arched tails fins that may be heavily mottled with black and often tinged red or orange, and (if not broken) ending in a slender filament. Larvae reach a total length of up to around 1.5 inches (3.8 cm). Egg masses contain clusters of about 6-45 eggs, floating free or loosely attached to submerged vegetation.
Reproduction Comments: Breeding occurs in spring-early summer (May-early July in Kansas, April-July in Maryland, April-August in western Tennessee). Often, but not always, breeding is stimulated by rainfall and warm temperatures. A female's clutch is divided among small clusters of around 20-40 eggs, deposited at the water's surface or attached to emergent plants. Individual females produce 1-3 clutches/year in Kansas and Tennessee (most females produce one clutch/year). Eggs hatch in several days. Larvae metamorphose in about 6-9 weeks, by end of summer (may rarely overwinter; McCallum and McCallum, 2005, Herpetol. Rev. 36:54). Males mated up to 3 times per season in Kansas; most calling males did not mate (Godwin and Roble 1983, Ritke et al. 1990). Females in Tennessee apparently require at least two years to reach sexual maturity.
Ecology Comments: In Tennessee, the majority of the adults marked in one year were not recaptured the following year, probably due to predation and/or winter mortality (or possibly postponed reproduction) (Ritke et al. 1991).

Skin secretions of these frogs are noxious to certain potential predators and may cause irritation if they contact human eyes or other sensitive membranes.

Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Migrates up to several hundred meters between breeding pools and adjacent nonbreeding terrestrial habitats.
Riverine Habitat(s): CREEK, Low gradient, Moderate gradient, Pool, SPRING/SPRING BROOK
Lacustrine Habitat(s): Shallow water
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic, Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris, Standing snag/hollow tree
Habitat Comments: Cope's gray treefrogs inhabit wooded areas and woodland edges (including woodlots in prairies), usually within a few hundred meters of the aquatic habitats in whch they breed. Often they occur in recently disturbed areas with abundant shrubs, herbaceous growth, and vines. Activity is arboreal and terrestrial. In Tennessee, frogs associated with knothole cavities in trees in fall were not there after mid-November (Ritke and Babb 1991). When inactive, frogs may hide in tree holes, under bark, under leaves, or under tree roots.

Breeding sites include temporary or permanent waters of flooded ditches, puddles, river sloughs, creeks, and small ponds, where there are woody branches or extensive herbaceous growth along the edges. Males call from the water surface or from vegetation or ground near water. Individuals generally breed in the same site in successive years (Ritke et al. 1991).

Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: Metamorphosed frogs eat various small invertebrates obtained on the ground and in vegetation. Larvae eat suspended matter, organic debris, algae, and plant tissue.
Adult Phenology: Crepuscular, Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Crepuscular, Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: These frogs are inactive during cold winter months, especially in the north. Most activity occurs at dusk and at night in summer.
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length: 6 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Group Name: Hylid Frogs (Treefrogs)

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including larvae or eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Busy major highway such that frogs rarely if ever cross successfully; intensive urban development dominated by buildings and pavement and lacking suitable vegetated frog refuges.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Available information is limited but indicates that hylids generally exhibit limited movements on a short-term basis. In New Jersey, Freda and Morin (1984) and Freda and Gonzalez (1986) demonstrated that individual Hyla andersonii often travel distances of 100 m from breeding ponds during the nonbreeding season. In montane Colorado, Spencer (1964) found that Pseudacris triseriata range into wet meadows usually within about 700 m of their breeding sites and sometimes cross a few hundred meters of upland habitat. Kay (1989) determined that most Pseudacris cadaverina individuals range over small segments of streamcourse; 83 percent of movements were less than 25 m in a 1-year study. In Michigan, nonbreeding home range diameters of Pseudacris crucifer, established around forest debris and vegetation, ranged from 1.2 to 5.5 m (Delzell 1958).

Based on this information it appears that 1 km is an appropriate separation distance for unsuitable habitat. Despite limited data suggesting restricted movements, dispersal data are scant, and these frogs are clearly physically capable of long moves. It seems unlikely that occupied locations separated by a gap of less than several kilometers of suitable habitat would represent independent occurrences over the long term.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .5 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Inferred extent distance pertains to distance from breeding sites.
Date: 21Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 26Jan2010
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 26Jan2010
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Blackburn, L., P. Nanjappa, and M. J. Lannoo. 2001. An Atlas of the Distribution of U.S. Amphibians. Copyright, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, USA.

  • Collins, J. T. 1982. Amphibians and reptiles in Kansas. Second edition. Univ. Kansas Mus. Nat. Hist., Pub. Ed. Ser. 8. xiii + 356 pp.

  • Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. 1998. A field guide to reptiles and amphibians: eastern and central North America. Third edition, expanded. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Massachusetts. 616 pp.

  • Cook, F. R. 1984. Introduction to Canadian amphibians and reptiles. National Museum of Natural Sciences, National Museums of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

  • Crother, B. I. (editor). 2008. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. Sixth edition. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles Herpetological Circular 37:1-84.

  • Duellman, W. E., A. B. Marion, and S. B. Hedges. 2016. Phylogenetics, classification, and biogeography of the treefrogs (Amphibia: Anura: Arboranae). Zootaxa 4104: 1?109.

  • Frost, D. R. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. A taxonomic and geographical reference. Allen Press, Inc., and The Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas. v + 732 pp.

  • Gerhardt, H.C., Ptacek, M.B., Barnett, L. and Torke, K.G 1994. Hybridization in the diploid-tetraploid treefrogs Hyla chrysoscelis and Hyla versicolor. Copeia 1994:51-59.

  • Godwin, G. J., and S. M. Roble. 1983. Mating success in male treefrogs, HYLA CHRYSOSCELIS (Anura: Hylidae). Herpetologica 39:141-146.

  • Holloway, A. K., D. C. Cannatella, H. C. Gerhardt, and D. M. Hillis. 2006. Polyploids with different origins and ancestors form a single sexual polyploid species. American Naturalist 167(4):E88-E101.

  • Jaslow, Alan P. and Richard C. Vogt. 1977. Identification and distribution of Hyla versicolor and Hyla chrysoscelis in Wisconsin. Herpetologica 33(2):201-205.

  • Johnson, T.R. 1977. The Amphibians of Missouri. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, Public Education Series 6: ix + 134 pp.

  • Little, M. A., B. L. Monroe, Jr., and J. E. Wiley. 1989. The distribution of the HYLA VERSICOLOR complex in the northern Appalachian highlands. J. Herpetol. 23:299-303.

  • Matson, T. O. 1990. Erythrocyte size as a taxonomic character in the identification of Ohio HYLA CHRYSOSCELIS and H. VERSICOLOR. Herpetologica 46:457-462.

  • Mirarchi, R.E., editor. 2004. Alabama Wildlife. Volume 1. A checklist of vertebrates and selected invertebrates: aquatic mollusks, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. 209 pages.

  • Mount, R. H. 1975. The reptiles and amphibians of Alabama. Auburn University Agricultural Experiment Station, Auburn, Alabama. vii + 347 pp.

  • Preston, W. B. 1982. The amphibians and reptiles of Manitoba. Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature, Winnipeg, Manitoba. 128 pp.

  • Ralin, D. B., M. A. Romano, and C. W. Kilpatrick. 1983. The tetraploid treefrog HYLA VERSICOLOR: evidence for a single origin from the diploid H. CHRYSOSCELIS. Herpetologica 39:212-225.

  • Ritke, M. E., J. G. Babb, and M. K. Ritke. 1990. Life history of the gray treefrog (HYLA CHRYSOSCELIS) in wetsern Tennessee. J. Herpetol. 24:135-141.

  • Ritke, M. E., J. G. Babb, and M. K. Ritke. 1991. Breeding-site specificity in the gray treefrog (HYLA CHRYSOSCELIS). J. Herpetol. 25:123-125.

  • Ritke, M. E., and J. G. Babb. 1991. Behavior of the gray treefrog (HYLA CHRYSOSCELIS) during the non-breeding season. Herpetol. Rev. 22:5-6, 8.

  • Vogt, R. C. 1981c. Natural history of amphibians and reptiles of Wisconsin. Milwaukee Public Museum. 205 pp.

  • Weller, W. F., and D. M. Green. 1997. Checklist and current status of Canadian amphibians. Pages 309-328 in D. M. Green, editor. Amphibians in decline: Canadian studies of a global problem. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Herpetological Conservation 1.

  • Wiley, J. E. 1983. Chromosome polymorphism in HYLA CHRYSOSCELIS. Copeia 1983:273-275.

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