Tree frog from Georgia travels to Canada and back

July 8, 2019, 8:27 a.m.
Cope's gray tree frog, Hyla chrysoscelis
Photo: Chattahoochee Nature Center

The Cope's gray tree frog is usually a bit of a homebody. The 1- to 2-inch-long amphibians are rarely seen on the ground, spending most of their time in trees, and they don't typically travel more than a few miles from wherever they were born.

That must have made the last two months especially strange for one Cope's gray tree frog from Georgia (pictured above), who recently completed a roughly 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) journey to Canada and back. The ordeal began in Sandersville, a city of 5,500 people in Central Georgia, where the frog apparently hopped into the cab of a cargo truck when the driver wasn't looking. The stowaway went unnoticed until the truck arrived in Mississauga, a city of about 800,000 people just outside Toronto.

When the driver found the frog, he trapped it in a container and brought it home with him, according to a Facebook post from the Toronto Wildlife Centre (TWC). His girlfriend contacted the TWC, which confirmed the frog's species after she emailed photos. Since the frog had come from out of the country, the TWC asked her to bring him in so they could try to help him get home.

Cope's gray tree frogs have a wide range in eastern North America, but they tend to gravitate farther south than other gray tree frogs. And after being relocated 1,000 miles north of his home habitat, this frog "would not have fared well had it been left to the Canadian winter," TWC executive director Nathalie Karvonen tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Cope's gray tree frog, Hyla chrysoscelis Cope's gray tree frogs range in color from mottled gray to gray-green, helping them blend in with tree bark. (Photo: Melinda Fawver/Shutterstock)

Staff at the TWC found the frog was in good health, despite having traveled so far without food, and placed him in a special container with insects, substrate, greenery and water. Meanwhile, they also contacted wildlife-rescue groups in Georgia, eventually finding metro Atlanta's Chattahoochee Nature Center (CNC), which agreed to help with the repatriation effort.

"The paperwork is a living nightmare," Karvonen says, although the TWC does have experience returning wayward wildlife across the U.S. border. It once took months to send a snake back to Arkansas, she tells the AJC, and the center currently has a raccoon that gave birth while hidden in a truck during a 16-day ride from California.

A company called Reptiles Express was hired to help with the frog's customs and transportation paperwork, according to the TWC, while the CNC worked to get permission from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. "We have a good relationship with the DNR, so we were able to quickly get approval," CNC wildlife director Kathryn Dudeck tells Patch. Three weeks later, TWC staff drove the frog to New York, where he caught a cargo flight to Atlanta.

The frog is now resting at the CNC, where staff are monitoring his health before releasing him into the wild in Sandersville.