Scientific name: Xenopus laevis

What Is It?

The African clawed frog is a predatory semi-aquatic frog native to sub-Saharan Africa that is highly adaptable to diverse environmental conditions and habitats. They reproduce so rapidly that they can double the population, and range, within 10 years. Similar to bullfrogs, African clawed frogs will eat anything that will fit into their mouths including other frogs, fish, birds, mammals, and snails.

Is It Here Yet?

Yes. African clawed frogs were first identified in 2015 in King County and have since been confirmed in three other cities (Bothell, Issaquah, and Lacey). They have entered the state through the aquarium and pet trades, and possibly via release after being used in science classes.

Why Should I Care?

African clawed frogs harm native ecosystems by competing with native species for resources. They also have the potential to introduce harmful pathogens that hurt native amphibian and fish populations, including salmon. It is important to limit the handling of African clawed frogs, due to the diseases they carry; anyone who comes into contact with an African clawed frog should thoroughly wash their hands. Lastly, an infestation of African clawed frogs decreases recreational fishing potential, due to the need to quarantine infested water bodies and close them off to public use.

How Can We Stop It?

Don’t buy or share these frogs at any life stage (from eggs to adults). Do not release unwanted pet frogs to the wild. African clawed frogs are classified as a Prohibited Aquatic Animal Species in Washington, meaning they may not be possessed, purchased, sold, propagated, transported, or released into state waters. In Washington, African clawed frogs only may be caught or killed by angling, hand dip netting, spearing (gigging), or with bow and arrow.

To learn more about what to do with unwanted pets, see out “Don’t Let it Loose” campaign page.

What Are Its Characteristics?

  • Mature frogs can grow larger than an average adult fist.
  • They do not have eye lids, tongues, or vocal sacs.
  • Olive to brown skin, often with blotches or spots.
  • Front feet are not webbed, while back feet are fully webbed and have black, sharp claws.
  • Tadpoles look similar to small catfish, with a pair of long barbels that extend from each side of their chin.

How Do I Distinguish It From Native Species?

Native green and bronze frogs have two parallel lines of raised glandular skin between the back and sides; the bullfrog does not have these features. African clawed frogs may be distinguished in that native frogs tend to only inhabit water to breed, otherwise living on land, but near water. Native frogs are smaller, rougher-textured, and less plump-looking than African clawed frogs. Look up native species (Pacific treefrogs, red-legged frogs, Columbia spotted frogs, Oregon spotted frogs, Cascade frogs) for individual distinguishing details.

Additional Photographs