In the summer, just around dusk, a chorus of frogs begin to vocalize on Webster Lake. In our cove, a deep bass voice, much like the roar of a bull, chimes in after the others are in full voice. This singer is the American bullfrog or simply bullfrog, as the majority of us call it. A familiar amphibious frog found in the USA and Canada is a member of the family Ranidae, or”true frogs”. Native to eastern North America its natural range extends from the Atlantic seacoast to as far west as Oklahoma and Kansas. Lately it was introduced into Nantucket Island, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, California, Washington, and Hawaii. It is considered an invasive species in these states, as it might outcompete native amphibian species, upsetting the neighborhood ecological balance. In some foreign countries such as Mexico, China, South Korea, and Argentina that the bullfrog was intentionally published, either as a food source or as biological control agents of sorts.
So how do you spot a bullfrog? Look for a colorful frog with olive-green sides and back and brownish markings. On the bullfrog’s stomach, it is going to be white with spots of gray or yellow. Specifically, the upper lip is quite often bright green with the lower lip much paler. Of note, the man’s throat is yellow and he is smaller than the female overall. Within the frog’s mouth are tiny teeth used to grasp little things. The bullfrog’s brown eyes protrude and have almond-shaped irises. The tympani of a male are larger than his eyes, where a female is smaller than her eyes. Limbs on the bullfrog are blotched or have gray bands. The forelegs are sturdy and brief, with the hind legs long and lean, able to jump distances 10 times their body length. Just the back toes are webbed except for the fourth toe. Most bullfrogs measure around 3.6 to 6 inches end to end. Growth is rapid the first eight weeks of life and weight increases from.18 ounces to 6.17 ounces. A bigger, mature bullfrog can weigh in at 1.5 lbs and up to 8 inches.
Located in large, permanent bodies of water, like ponds, swamps, lakes, and streams, a man bullfrog will defend his land during the two to three-month breeding period. This season is anywhere from late May through July. Males will claim sites usually spaced some 9.8 to 10.7 feet apart. They call loudly using at least three different territorial calls serving not only as threats to other men, but to attract females and encounter calls which precede combat.
These choruses are lively, forming and remain together for a few days. After the brief period, they move on to form new choruses with different males. To establish dominance in a chorus the male illustrates a variety of aggressive behavior, especially visually. Territorial males have inflated postures to demonstrate their yellowish colored throats, while non-territorial males remain in the water with just their heads in view. When two dominant men come in contact they wrestle! After all the male enhancement, a female will finally pick a mate. When completed, she deposits her 20,000 or so eggs in his territory in shallow water.
As a young boy growing up on New York Animal Removal, I remember many a night when my Dad, two brothers and I moved”frogging”. American bullfrogs are often found on the dinner table, particularly in the Midwest and in Southern parts of america. Then, when approached gradually, carefully, and quietly, the bullfrog is gigged with a multi-tined spear (if legal), grasping gigs or by hand catch. Normally the back legs are consumed, much like small drumsticks and cooked in exactly the exact same manner.
The majority of us who grew up in america share another memory of the American bullfrog – dissection in Biology class. Not one I would care to repeat, thank you!