Wednesday, June 1, 2022

A Beller From the Pond


Bullfrog on a limb overhanging our pond

         I built a nice pond up here on this ridge top about 25 years ago, and it was a wise move, though an expensive one at the time.  I have stocked it with fish, but I don’t fish it much except when I need bait for a trotline.  It is a pretty much easy place to catch a bucket full of 4 or 5-inch sunfish.  Last night as I sat on the porch watching the sunset I heard a big ol’ bullfrog bellerin’ from the pond.  There a lots of them too and in the summer they beller a lot.  I catch them from the nearby river every now and then, because, as most of you know, they are great eating.  But for some reason I have never eaten one from my pond.  I just can’t bring myself to do it.  I’d rather  hear ‘em than eat   ‘em

         Usually, when you read a natural history account, it discusses the basic things you find in a nature book of some type, like when the bird or animal migrates or hibernates, how many young it has, and what it eats. Today’s outdoor writers who write such things usually live in the city suburbs and get their information from a book someone else wrote long ago.  When I was a kid I read where bullfrogs lay about five or six thousand eggs and I set out to see if that was correct.  I found a big bunch of frog eggs in a little backwater slough and began to count them, and I was up around four or five hundred when something distracted me, so I never did get a completed count.  

         I have decided to go with what the book says.  I can say for sure that tadpoles hatch from the eggs and begin, in time to sprout legs and slowly, throughout the course of the summer, become a small bullfrog.  The book says that in about two years, that little frog will be a full grown, eating size bullfrog about 5 inches long.  It says that bullfrogs only get to be about 6 and 1/2  inches long, and I don't buy that at all.  I know I have caught some that were 8 or 9 inches long and 18 inches long with their legs stretched out.  Ol' Bill down at the pool hall when I was a kid, said he had seen 'em 24 inches long when he was younger, and I can tell you that Ol' Bill knew more about river critters than whoever wrote those books.  You remember seeing that picture of the heron trying to swallow a bullfrog, and the bullfrog hanging out the big birds beak with it's front feet wrapped around the heron's neck trying to choke it to death...?  Well Ol' Bill said he actually seen that happen once.

         I know from studying bullfrogs on my own that they will eat about anything they can, and they eat both at night and during the daytime.  I never recall ever seeing one asleep; never saw one that wouldn't eat whenever the opportunity presented itself.   They really can unroll that tongue out there and nail an insect before them, and they can also swim up to a crawdad under water and eat it too.  I imagine they prefer crawdads to about anything when they can get them, but then, a pond bullfrog which has no crawdads in his pond has to settle for insects or small fish or small snakes.  A bullfrog is a little like some of my relatives on my mother's side, he will eat whatever he can get, whatever comes along that looks capable of being swallowed.

         Bullfrogs usually fatten up and hibernate in the muck or mud somewhere, and that is to me one of the most amazing things when you think of it.  They just sense when it is time to burrow in somewhere and when spring comes along they wake up and get back to a normal life.  Think about that this Christmas when there's about a foot of snow on the ground.... down at the river, there are dozens of bullfrogs snoozing away in a foot or so of frozen mud, not breathing or eating, with about one heartbeat every two days.  

         From my own experiences with bullfrogs, without consulting the books, they are very prolific, lead a fairly boring life, miss the whole winter sleeping but stay awake all summer, can jump the full length of a johnboat, eat almost everything that is smaller than they are and feed almost everything larger than they are. Their deep bellowing call adds a great deal to an Ozark river on a summer night. And here on my ridge, bellering away from the pond in the woods, they make summer melodious. It wouldn't be the same without them.  


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