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What Is a State Amphibian?

By Elizabeth West
Updated May 17, 2024
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In the US, the people of each state choose a particular symbol to associate with their locality. A state amphibian is one of several symbols that may be selected. The choice is submitted to the legislative body of the state, which then enacts a bill that makes the animal an official symbol. Puerto Rico, a US territory, has a state amphibian, and many other countries adopt species common to their shores as symbols.

Amphibians are animals that have an aquatic, gill-breathing stage, but as adults live on land and breathe air. They are cold-blooded and depend on sunlight and cool mud or water to regulate their body temperature. Many species of frogs, salamanders, and toads fit this description. Most of the animals are either native to or plentiful in the state or territory in question. Missouri’s state amphibian, the North American bullfrog, is the largest frog native to the state and is common in warm shallow waters there.

Many state animals are chosen by schoolchildren who campaign for their favorite reptile, bird, or amphibian, and consider its symbolic value. Qualities the animal may embody that fit the ideal picture of the population, such as fierceness or stoicism, are also taken under advisement. Choosing a state amphibian allows children to learn about the animal in question and follow the legislative process as their petition makes its way through. Once a US state amphibian is nominated the process generally works like any other bill, and it passes through the state legislature and is voted on.

Another reason for choosing a particular animal is conservation efforts. Amphibians in general are sensitive to pollution and habitat encroachment, making them good mascots for preservation efforts. The Tennessee cave salamander is a threatened species, and its designation as the state amphibian brings attention to its plight. Salamanders are valuable species because they are sensitive to environmental changes, and their well-being helps monitor climactic and environmental health.

Canada, Brazil, India, Australia and other countries have animals that represent each province or territory. In Cornwall, England, the chough, a crowlike bird with red feet, appears on the county coat of arms. While few sub-national animals are amphibians, they vary from domesticated animals, such as dogs and cats, to equines, dinosaurs, and insects. Most of them are picked the same way the US designates their state animals and birds. Puerto Rico, a US territory, has the common coqui, a small brown frog native to the island, as its unofficial state amphibian.

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Discussion Comments
By sunshined — On Mar 09, 2012

I have never seen a list of amphibians that are associated with each state, but would think that many states would share the same state amphibian.

How many different amphibians are there?

Our state amphibian is the bullfrog, but I could also see how it could possibly be a toad. We always have toads hanging around our damp basement in the summer time.

I really don't mind them as long as they get out of the way and I don't step on them. Both frogs and toads eat a lot of mosquitoes, so I don't mind having them around.

By LisaLou — On Mar 08, 2012

While I prefer to avoid most amphibians I come in contact with, I realize they are harmless. I just have a hard time with some of the creepy, crawly ones.

One day my son informed me that the Kansas state amphibian is the Barred Tiger salamander. This is a black and yellow striped salamander that turns out to be the longest land-based salamander in the world. How thrilled I am that this is prevalent in my state!

Some of these salamanders can grow up to 13 inches long. Thankfully I have not seen any that long, but even those that I have seen usually send me running. We saw one out in the yard one day when we were clearing some brush.

This is when my son informed me of these facts he had learned in school. He was completely fascinated with it and wanted to capture it and keep it in a jar. Needless to say, that never happened, and the salamander got to stay in his natural habitat.

By cardsfan27 — On Mar 08, 2012

I have a question. Is is illegal to kill a an official state animal, amphibian, reptile, or whatever if you are in that state?

I know this seems silly, but the bald eagle is the official bird of the United States of America and it is highly illegal to kill that and it revolves around the same premise that these state sponsored animals do.

I also wonder if it is only illegal in some states, but there is nothing on the books in another. I know I live near a town that has a certain animal, the white squirrel, that is the official symbol of the town and if you run one over you are fined 75 dollars. And yes they took extreme measures to ensure this is real as the white squirrels of this town have the right of way in traffic.

I know my question may seem absurd, but I come from a town that has laws like this for the official town animal and I am wondering if there are states that follow the same?

By bagley79 — On Mar 07, 2012

The Arizona state amphibian is the tree frog. The reason I know this is because I was in school when we got to vote on this. There were at least two types of toads that were also up for this title, but the tree frog won.

That is the amphibian I actually voted on too! I find tree frogs really interesting. Once in awhile I will see them stuck on the outside of the window.

If you don't know what they are they can scare you a little bit, but they are completely harmless. They are green and small with most of them only being around 1 inch long.

We don't get rain very often here, but when we do, you can hear the tree frogs calling. Many people probably aren't even aware of what the sound is, but it is a distinct clacking sound.

Amphibians do play an important role in the balance of our eco-system. I am glad there is more awareness about them than there seemed to be in years past.

By Emilski — On Mar 07, 2012

@jmc88 - I can understand what you and jcraig are trying to say, but to be totally honest these are the type of fun things that are associated with the state that make it unique and to be quite honest they d not take up much at all of the legislators time.

Motions like this are usually not debated and they simply go to a straight voice vote of yes or no. It is very rare that there is any debate at all and when there is it is usually only a few people that do not see how something fits the culture or history of the state.

These types of things are what makes states unique from others and I do agree they may go overboard sometimes, like naming a state fossil, but things like the state amphibian I feel are fine as long as it is associated with the state and it is an amphibian that makes the state unique.

By jmc88 — On Mar 06, 2012

@jcraig - I understand where you are coming from and I really feel like once they start getting really specific, with something like a state amphibian, they are really making unnecessary stretches that completely go against what it means to have a state sponsored whatever.

I really feel like it is fine to have things such as state animals and maybe even state birds, but is there really a reason to have a state amphibian, or reptile?

I would not be surprised if someday a state went a step further and had things like the state rodent and the state domestic animal.

By jcraig — On Mar 05, 2012

I never really understood why something so silly, like a state amphibian, needs to be created.

All it does is really waste tax payers money as well as the time of the state legislature, to enact measures such as this that have absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the livelihood of the state or the people of the state.

I can understand creating things like a state seal and a state flag, but I really do not understand why there needs to be state sponsored initiatives, like the state animal, tree, bird, and so on.

I really feel like the legislators time could be spent more effectively and they could be trying to solve some real issues instead of simply passing motions like this for public relations appeal.

By andee — On Mar 05, 2012

I really had no idea that there was such a thing as a state amphibian. I know that most states have a state flower, tree, bird, seal and motto, but have never heard anything about an amphibian.

I actually happen to be from the state of Missouri, and can see why the bullfrog is our state amphibian.

In the warm summer months, you don't have a hard time seeing and hearing bullfrogs. If you are in the country or around a body of water at night, the sound of the bullfrogs can be really loud.

Some people are annoyed by this sound, but I actually love to hear them. We live out of town and have a pond in our yard. I love to sleep with my windows open at night so I can listen to them in the evening.

By seag47 — On Mar 04, 2012

The spotted newt is the New Hampshire state amphibian, and it got this honor because someone wanted to bring awareness to the fact that acid rain was killing it off. New Hampshire needed to clean up its act, and the amphibian was used to motivate people to do this.

It's kind of ironic that the spotted newt secrets poison to protect itself. So, the state used a toxic amphibian to encourage people to avoid doing things that would be toxic to the environment.

One good thing about this newt is that it loves eating mosquitoes. I think it has helped control their population during the summer, because I've been to other states where the newt is not found, and they seem to have more mosquitoes.

By wavy58 — On Mar 04, 2012

I'm from Illinois, and our state amphibian is also the biggest salamander to live on land. It's called the eastern tiger salamander, and it has spots and stripes that give it its name.

I have seen groups of these crossing the street before. They do this around mating season, but I don't know exactly why.

They are yellow and black and can be as long as a foot! It's kind of creepy to see these huge salamanders in my yard. I've heard that they will eat other kinds of amphibians, but they are great at keeping the bug population down around my house.

By shell4life — On Mar 03, 2012

@OeKc05 – The green tree frog is also Georgia's state amphibian. I live in rural Georgia, and I am very familiar with this amphibian.

It has a white racing stripe around it that goes well with the lime green. This sets it apart from the common toad.

What stands out most to me about the green tree frog is its song. At night during the spring and summer, I can hear hundreds of these frogs calling out to each other. It's very relaxing, and when I'm camping, it helps lull me to sleep.

By OeKc05 — On Mar 02, 2012

The Louisiana state amphibian frequents my yard. I live in that state out in the country, surrounded by marshy areas, and I often see the green tree frog on my front doors and windows.

This frog clings to the glass with little suction cups on its toes, and I can watch it catch insects from inside the house. It's a small amphibian, and I think having the ability to climb trees and houses keeps it safe from predators.

What's really cool about this frog is that while it is resting, it is a grayish-brown color. When it is awake and hunting for bugs, it turns lime green.

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