At the end of November I received a very interesting email from Tasha, who lives in Anchorage, Alaska. Tasha and her family had just brought home a Christmas tree. To their surprise, a small frog came hopping out of the tree! They noticed that it was unlike the other frogs they had seen in Alaska. They contacted me after searching the internet, and I confirmed that their frog was a Pacific Chorus Frog. Here is Tasha’s frog:
What makes this a particularly interesting observation is that Pacific Chorus Frogs are not native to Alaska. Their natural geographic range is from British Columbia down to Baja California (although it is likely that there are several similar-looking species lumped together as Pacific Chorus Frogs). So the frog that Tasha and her family found in their Christmas tree was probably accidentally transported from a tree farm in Washington or Oregon.
It turns out that frogs riding in Christmas trees is not an unusual situation. In 2009 I was contacted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to identify a frog found in Christmas trees. That was also a Pacific Chorus Frog, and the little frog ended getting quite a bit of attention as a national new story. Pacific Chorus Frogs have also been documented traveling in Christmas trees to Arizona (Rorabaugh et al. 2004 Southwestern Naturalist), and even Guam (Christy et al. 2007 Diversity and Distributions).
I am aware of only one documented introduced population of Pacific Chorus Frogs in Alaska, and that is in southern Alaska. However, as the climate continues to warm, it is possible that the continued Christmas hitchhiking of Pacific Chorus Frogs could lead to their establishing a population in Alaska. I would be interested in hearing about more cases of Pacific Chorus Frogs transported in Christmas trees. If you have found a frog in your Christmas tree, please let me know! I can be contacted by email: mfbenard –
Update March 2015: Since I posted this, I have been contacted by two other people that found pacific chorus frogs in their Christmas Tree in 2014. Once case was in Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix is outside of the range of these frogs. The other case was on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Although Vancouver Island is within the range of these frogs, it is likely that the frog had still been moved a long distance.