(article by Jay Reynolds – a Frog Jump Founder)
Hello ladies and gentlemen, and all you frog fanciers and frog jumpers. On behalf of the Valley City Community Group I’d like to give you a little background and inside information about frogs and the Valley City Frog Jump.
Table of Contents
Frogs, toads and tail-less lizards make up a group that is known to go back over two million years. They were the first of animals or amphibians in the world that really communicated with each other through voice sounds. To give you an idea, there are approximately three thousand, four hundred and forty five known kinds, or species, and three hundred ten genera and twenty one families.
Frogs and Toads
This is to give you a general idea about the size and difference between frogs. They go all the way from what we call the little spring peeper which is approximately 3/8th to ½ inches long, to the Goliath frog, which is found in southern Africa and gets up to be as big as small dogs, weighing well over two to three pounds, and they are very, very huge; its unimaginable. But getting back to knowing the difference between frogs and toads there are two distinct things that you should probably remember. Frogs, they are always kinda wet and slimy. And the one big thing that you know of is, they hop. So if you see an amphibian out in the fields or around ponds and streams, and he looks kind of shiny and then he hops off, you can very well verify that this is definitely a frog. Now frogs are known as Rana in North America, or Ranidae in the name of science.
But toads are Bufals. They definitely came from probably the same genera background. A toad is always very dry. They only go up to water during their mating season. They have rough skin which we call warts. One thing is definitely known about toads. You won’t see ‘em hop. A toad will walk. And this little definite difference between hopping and walking, you should be able to differentiate between a frog and a toad.
Kinds of Frogs
Okay, then today, I would just like to discuss what is known as the common bullfrog. It’s most common in North America, and it’s the one we like to play with. There have been other frogs that we’ve gotten from other states and are known as bullfrogs. One of them is the Louisiana cow frog, which is a big spotted bullfrog, apparently a little bit bigger that what we call our yellow -belly bullfrog, which is more predominant in Ohio, here. And also imported from Arkansas what we call the blue throat frog and the Tennessee brown frog.. We have propagated these different breeds of frogs into some golf courses in the local area here in Valley City, Brunswick, Hinckley and Lodi, and in different farm ponds that farmers let us use.
Also in the frog jump there are two other frogs which deserve mentioning, and they are the pickerel frog and the leopard frog. The pickerel frog is raised in captivity in the northern states; they produce very well and are used for meat and that. Leopard frogs are commonly known as pasture frogs because they wander away from water into grass; they also are very good jumpers.
So the subject that I would like to discuss clearly now is strictly Rana or Ranidae bullfrogs, the most common here in Ohio. They are easily recognized. They have a greenish brown hue to them on their backs. They have kinda creamy colored stomachs. The male bull frog has a very deep yellow throat which is very recognizable.
Male or Female?
To distinguish between the male and the female bullfrog; if you look on the side of their heads by their eyes you’ll see what we call the ears or tympanums. Now on a normal bullfrog that we have here, the North American bullfrog, the tympanum or the ear on a male frog is at least twice as big as the one in a female. The female’s tympanum is about as big as her eye. So in the process of determining whether you’ve got a female frog or a male frog, if you just look behind the eye and you see this giant tympanum or ears as its called, you’ll know that you have a male frog if its very big or you got a female if it is small. So that is just one of the differences that we’d like to have you note.
Getting back to the reproduction of frogs, or the mating of frogs, as I said before the frog is the only amphibian that really communicated before all other species on earth. When it comes to mating time I am just going to discuss the North American frog. In the Spring, the season for not taking frogs for food is May through the middle of June. This gives them time to do their mating calls. You probably hear these frogs croaking very loud, and very different sounds. Each species of frog has their own call or language. That way when a male stakes out his place on the bank of a pond or a creek, or wherever he may be, he starts croaking and the one that has the deepest sound and is the most voracious, he probably will attract females first. Only the females of this species frog will be coming because they are the only ones that understand the croaking or the language that this frog is emitting.
To hear the sound of a male bullfrog, click here
Frogs are very territorial. As another male frog comes by, he will fight him. Sometimes they fight a duel to death.
But when a female is ready to lay her eggs, the male attaches himself to her back. When she lays her eggs in the reeds or the grass along or in the water in the pond, the male bull frog emits his sperm and this way the eggs are fertilized.
Then in two to three weeks, these eggs will hatch in a mucous, or jelly membrane thing like. This provides some food for the process, the embryo to materialize. Pretty soon the tadpole is born, as we call it, and this tiny tadpole has gills. In the bullfrog there are two little tiny legs right where the body and the big long old fat tail is attached. The tadpole has no front legs. He is in the process of growing, and it is going to be a process of metamorphous. The American Bullfrog usually takes two years because of the climate change, and these tadpoles spend at least one winter in this process of metamorphous, in which they grow to a size of maybe 3 -4 inches long, They take oxygen out of the water with their gills.
As they develop, the gills start to grow shut and tiny legs start to grow out, usually happens on the left side gill first as it grows shut. During this time of change they don’t eat. They live off their tail ,and the tail shrinks. And before these gills get grown shut, the lungs inside develop. Another amazing process develops in the tadpole skin. They grow a system that lets them take oxygen out of the water through their skin. Now this allows the frog to breathe or get his oxygen two ways. That is why he can sit on the bank and breath air which he needs to call to the other frogs, and when he dives into the water or goes into hibernation he can stay down for eons, because he draws his oxygen through his skin. Which gives him a double process of surviving.
Frogs are very vulnerable to animals, especially coons, or meat eating animals and birds. So don’t think that they are Scott free when they jump into the water, because even large fish will catch them when they jump into the water.
At this time I’d like to relate to you that frogs are very carnivorous. If they were the size of lions this world wouldn’t be safe for human beings, because they are voracious and very vicious when it comes to their food. I have seen frogs eat other frogs the same size as they are while I’ve had them in captivity. It makes you wonder what would happen if they were of giant size. But most of the frogs in this variety eat insects and worms, spiders and small fish. They’ve even been known to eat baby alligators, like in the south. This is what makes people wonder how vicious they could be if they were a huge size.
Most of the time the tongue in a frog is attached in the front of his mouth and his lower jaw, and it is very long. When something, like a moth or bug or grasshopper, comes by and he needs it for food, he just sits still; that tongue flicks out. It’s covered with a very sticky coating. He zaps whatever is in front of him and sticks it back in his mouth. He doesn’t have to work very hard to get his food.
Some companies feed frogs and sell them commercially. They have developed there own ways, some use a certain type of dog food, I can’t tell you exactly what kind. A lot of them use meal worms. Some of them have meat displayed in some of their ponds like in a greenhouse structure in the northern parts where they raise frogs commercially, and the meat develops these meal worms, and anything that moves or is alive, that frog usually makes sure that his stomach is full at all times.
Catching your own frog
Now for you boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, who want to go out and catch your own frog for the jump, here are some hints for you. Just before your frog jump coming up on the day of the big jump in August, take a walk around the pond or someplace where you have heard bullfrogs in the spring. Spring is the only time that you really hear these frogs carrying on and giving you all them nice sounds at night. That is during the mating season, which generally lasts in the months of May and June as I said before. If you walk around the pond you will notice that every once in a while you will hear a screeching noise, and you will hear a plunk. This is a frog that is going in the water. The screeching noise is an alarm signal for other frogs and his own breed. So remember where you see this frog jumping in the water when you are walking around in the daytime, because he definitely will come back to this area. Also, notice any hazards that you might get into trouble with.
After dark, take a flashlight and get you a cotton bag, or as I used when I caught frogs, a lot of them, for the Frog Jump, I used a burlap bag which was very definitely soaked with water. And please don’t use a gig or that little spear to spear them with, cause they won’t jump once they are speared.
To catch a frog, get in the water and take any old two celled flashlight that’s really bright, and just kinda shine it along the bank. When you see a frog, just silently move towards the frog and keep the light on his eyes. As you approach him open your hand but keep the light on his eyes. When you get right up to him and you know you are within hands reach, just reach down and grab the frog gently and firmly in your hand. Have somebody with you that has got a bag, and just put the frog in the bag and close the top of it. Please don’t squeeze the frog too hard. When you ‘re reaching for him his hind legs are behind him so if he goes to jump he’s going to jump right into your hand anyway. So just the pressure of catching him in your hand will be enough to stop him from getting away from you and you won’t have to struggle with him. You can lay the flashlight down, take your other hand and cuff him up around the belly.
Caring for your frog
One thing you got to remember, when you have a frog in captivity, you have to keep his skin damp or moist!. Now if you got a container to put him in with water, place a rock in there where he can get up there and sit on it.. When I kept frogs for the frog jump, I usually kept them in burlap bags on the floor. I also had big plastic containers that I kept them in for people to see. But I had to make sure that I had them well fed; because if you don’t they are going to eat each other. We fed night crawlers, angle worms, meal worms, grasshoppers, crickets and assorted insects, all alive. But when they are inside of a bag in the darkness they will not feed. Just remember to keep them wet all the time; use a cotton bag or something so that you can keep them damp. Plastic bags are no good because the frog can’t get enough air.
Handling at the Jump
When you get to the frog jump, I’ll give you a little advice. If you want to display your frog, take your thumb and your middle finger. Right behind his front legs when he is sitting, put your thumb behind, say if you are right handed, the left front leg and your middle finger around the right front leg right behind the legs on his body. Then take your trigger finger and place it over his nose between his two eyes. He will close those eyes because they kind of bulge out the top of his head, and he will do very little to try to get away from you. That way you can pick him up. You’ve got your fingers, thumb and middle finger around his body behind his front legs, and when you take him to the ring to jump, just kinda take and lay him down like that. Take your other hand and fold his hind legs up underneath him. Get him in a good position. That way, when you take your hand off of him and his eyes open, he is going to be very wanting “What Can I Do”, and he will probably jump for you. You can beat the canvas or whatever.
The other thing is, if you keep a frog in the dark, like I said I used burlap bags, where they are in darkness they are not as apt to be frightened When you take them out of the bag and take them to the jump ring and you’ve got the eyes closed, they haven’t really seen the daylight real good yet. They freak out. When you put them down on the canvass you take your hands off them and they start to jump. They really go for it. So keeping a frog in the dark, his eyes closed, and putting him down like that will help you very much at your frog jump.
The other thing is, sometimes you can take a frog , and like I told you how to handle him, just take your other hand and rub his stomach. Somehow or other this hypnotizes the frog and he’ll just go relax. I’ve done this when we measured some frogs which I’ve had measured up to nineteen inches in length.
On behalf of the Old Huckleberry here, I hope you people get some good listening out of this. Remember, treat your frog gently, keep him moist at all times, and if you want to have some good fun just visit that Frog Jump in Liverpool Township, Valley City, Ohio, sponsored by the Valley City Community Group. And I thank you very much.
For a more academic discussion of frogs, click here to go to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History pages.