Jug-o-rum, jug-o-rum, if you hear that call you know that a bullfrog is in the area. Bullfrogs live in freshwater, in and around ponds, lakes, rivers, streams and marshes. They are large frogs. Females are larger than males and will be 3.5 – 6 inches, weight 1.1 lbs. and the largest can be over 8 inches, weight 1.5 lbs. In the wild they live 7-9 years, record lifespan in captivity was 16 years.
They are typically green or gray-brown with brown spots, their throats are mottled with brown spots. The males have a yellow throat and their eardrums (tympanum) are much larger than the diameter of their eyes. Females have white or cream-colored throats and their eardrums are the same size or smaller than their eyes. They don’t have dorsolateral folds (ridge) along the back this is important since they look like green frogs except the green frogs do have the dorsolateral folds.
Males defend their territories and will battle their challengers. The females will deposit their eggs in huge, semi-floating masses. The masses may be 2 feet across and look like mats of frothy, tiny bubbles. Females deposit 6,000 to 20,000 eggs, but many do not survive. They are preyed upon by leeches. Tadpoles hatch within two weeks and can be identified by their muddy green color and are white or cream-colored underneath. Bullfrog tadpoles are the largest in North America, growing to 5″ or more. Most tadpoles metamorphose into froglets the summer after hatched, but some can remain as tadpoles for 2 years before sprouting legs and developing lungs. When they are tadpoles they graze upon aquatic plants and consume bacteria.
In winter, bullfrogs will hibernate under water beneath leaf litter or into mud at the bottom of a pond.
Adult bullfrogs are said to “eat any moving prey that they are able to swallow”. They mostly eat insects, spiders, crayfish and other invertebrates, but they are carnivores and have been known to eat mice, birds, snakes, small turtles and even other frogs. In turn they have a large number of predators, including snakes, herons, snapping turtles, otters, mink, raccoons and humans. When a bullfrog is threatened they will suck in air to make themselves larger. Humans also hunt bullfrogs. Frog legs, considered a delicacy in France and others countries, are said to taste like chicken.
Bullfrogs are great jumpers. They generally jump 3 feet, but are able to jump 6 ft. “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” is a short story written by Mark Twain in 1865. This was the story that brought Mark Twain national attention. Calaveras County holds a frog jump contest and here “Rosie the Ribiter” established the froggy world record of jumping 21 feet, 5 3/4 inches in 1986.
If you ever travel to Willimantic, Connecticut you might want to stop by their Frog Bridge that was decorated in 2000 with large bronze frogs to keep alive the memory of a time in 1754 when the town people heard what they thought to be an attack either from warring tribal people or wild animals. It turned out to be the “battling of frogs”! Of course, you wouldn’t be fooled or afraid because you know that the jug-o-rum call is just that of a silly bullfrog.