Is there Hope for the Hoosier Frog? An Update on the Status of Crawfish Frogs (Lithobates Areolatus) in Indiana, with Recommendations for their Conservation

  • Nathan J. Engbrecht Indiana University School of Medicine–TH
  • Michael J. Lannoo Indiana University School of Medicine–TH
  • Perry J. Williams Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge
  • Joseph R. Robb Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge
  • Todd A. Gerardot Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge
  • Daryl R. Karns Hanover College
  • Michael J. Lodato
Keywords: Crawfish Frog, Lithobates areolatus, status, conservation, management


Crawfish Frogs (Lithobates areolatus) are a State Endangered species that have experienced declines through much of their range in Indiana. We conducted surveys at nine historical sites and detected Crawfish Frogs at only one of them. Data suggest this species has been extirpated from Benton, Fountain, and Vermillion counties in the north, Vanderburgh and Warrick counties in the south, and Morgan and Monroe counties in the east. Robust populations of Crawfish Frogs persist in two areas, at Hillenbrand Fish and Wildlife Area-West in the southwest, and at Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge in the southeast. One cluster of populations remains in Spencer County, in the south. Our data suggest that there are fewer than 1,000 adult Crawfish Frogs in Indiana: Big Oaks supports about 300 animals, Hillenbrand supports about 200 animals, and remaining animals are scattered among populations that are generally small and located on private lands in southwestern Indiana. Despite these pessimistic data, Crawfish Frogs are resilient and will establish populations at new sites when habitat becomes available and animals are close enough to colonize. If Crawfish Frogs are to persist in Indiana, they must become a component of the management plans on both public and private lands. When this occurs, not only could the precipitous decline of Crawfish Frogs in this state be halted, but Indiana’s public grasslands are extensive enough that intervention could lead to the eventual downlisting of the species.
Zoology and Entomology