'Frogs' spotted on St. John's airport runway a mystery, given time of year

A recent incident at the St. John's International Airport — where frogs were spotted on the runway during a landing — has a local wildlife educator scratching his head.

A Sunwing flight that had just landed in St. John's, after departing Fredericton Sunday night, first reported seeing frogs on the west end of runway 29.

Airport crew reported that the aircraft was running over multiple frogs while backtracking on the tarmac, but that it had no impact on operations.

Too cold

According to Bob Piercey, an education manager at the Fluvarium freshwater education centre, it really doesn't make sense that frogs would be out and about this early in the year.

"When I heard it I thought, 'This is kind of strange'," he told the St. John's Morning Show.

"If you had called me maybe in early June and said this I wouldn't have been as surprised, but given the spring we've had and the cold weather – and it was pretty cold Sunday night – I can't see them moving around much."

Piercey said the predominant frog species on the Avalon Peninsula is the green frog, which typically would still be in hibernation this time of year, especially with recent temperatures the region has been getting.

He has heard of frogs being on the runway in late spring when the asphalt heats up, but said realistically that hasn't been the case yet this year.

The Avalon does also have toads, but, once again, Piercey said they would still be pretty dormant in early May, and not likely on an airport runway.

Piercey said it's possible that one lone green frog could be out and about, but it's very unlikely multiple ones would be around in such low temperatures.

He said toads are a much less solitary species, but, again, not likely to be out in such cold temperatures.

"There is another frog species on the west coast, the much smaller wood frog. They do emerge earlier in the year than the others. As a matter of fact, they come out of the water just as the ice leaves it," Piercey said.

"But I'm not familiar with wood frogs being in and around St. John's."

Piercey said he can't really be sure what kind of amphibian the flight crew saw and would need to see a photo to say for sure.

Not the first time

There was another incident at the St. John's International Airport back in 2014 where frogs were reported on the runway, but that was in September.

In that case, a private plane travelling from Philadelphia reported foreign debris on the runway, and two other flights were delayed as staff removed some of the amphibians from the area.