Along the back half of the Mizzy Lake Trail in Algonquin Provincial Park, if you hike in a counterclockwise direction as suggested, you will eventually arrive at Dizzy Lake. That is where Bob and I found dozens of frogs including several Mink Frogs. It was late in the afternoon when we crossed that particular section of wetland adjacent to the lake, and a good many frogs seemed to be contentedly basking in the sunshine while soaking in the water.
A lengthy stretch of boardwalk was provided to conduct hikers over the cold, mossy bog that frames the eastern side of the lake, which was more to protect the vegetation and animals living within it as opposed to keeping peoples’ feet dry. A dense stretch of forest consisting of Black Spruce and Tamarack rimmed the far shore with the odd old-growth pine tree reaching for the sky.
Towards the southern end of the Lake, a slow-moving stream flows beneath the boardwalk, and it was from that vantage point that Bob and I observed the numerous Mink Frogs at home in the cool water. Mink Frogs inhabit permanent bodies of water such as ponds, bogs, swamps and streams.
Mink Frogs are so called because, if handled, their bodies emit a pungent, musky odour not unlike that of a mink (or rotten onions). These frogs are easily confused with Green Frogs, but Green Frogs have noticeable dark bands across the hind legs.
Mink Frogs, like Green Frogs, have bright green upper lips and the sides of their heads are green. Another similar characteristic are their large circular, external eardrums. Another differentiation between the male and female of the species is the colour of the skin on the throat. Males have bright yellow throats, and the skin on a female’s throat will be creamy white to pale yellow.
A few feet further along the wooden bridge, we spotted some immature Mink Frogs that still had their tails. In the Great Lakes region, Mink Frogs breed starting in late May into June, and females deposit their eggs in June and July, but it is not known how long it takes the eggs to hatch. The cluster of eggs will sink to the bottom of the pond or stream before hatching. Tadpoles have a yellowish underside and a characteristic long, pointy tail.
Tadpoles have a long larval stage, anywhere between one and two years, before they metamorphose into frogs. This frog with a tail had likely hatched the previous July or August, but quite possibly even two summers ago. To withstand the freezing temperatures of winter, the tadpoles hibernate in the mud of their home body of water.
Owing to their long breeding season and prolonged larval stage, it is possible to see tadpoles in a range of sizes and at varying stages of development during most of the spring and summer months. Bob and I were five hours into our hike by the point in time that we arrived at Dizzy Lake, so without further ado, we entered a section of forest that was now populated with broad-leaved trees. The shade was welcome and kept us cool the remainder of the hike, another hour or so.