by Kyle Sweet, Sanctuary Golf Club Superintendent
The Pig Frog, also known as the Southern Bullfrog, is certainly one of those animals you’re more likely to hear than see. Rather than just one or two, it’s typical to hear a chorus coming from vegetation along the edge of still, permanent areas of water such as a still pool of water from a pond to a wet prairie to swamps, ditches and canals. All of these habitats are very common throughout the flat lands of Florida.
The Pig Frog gets its name from the pig-like grunts that the males make to attract females during the spring through summer breeding season. During the breeding season, the female Pig Frog can lay up to 10,000 eggs in a mass across the water surface after mating. The eggs, often attach to emergent vegetation. The eggs are small bead-like in appearance and they seemingly have no animal predators. They hatch within 2-3 days, resulting in rather large tadpoles that go through metamorphosis and emerge as adults in typically one year.
The Pig Frog is a native of Florida and is found throughout the state except for in the Florida Keys. Overall, their range extends from South Carolina to Texas.
Pig Frogs vary in color from lighter shades of green to yellow, brown and nearly black. They have a white to yellowish underside and irregular black or brown blotches on the body and legs. Their toes are webbed to the tip and there is a prominent membrane behind their eyes for hearing, easily seen on the photo provided.
The Crayfish is the favorite food of the Pig Frog, but it will basically eat anything it can swallow, including dragonflies, beetles, beetles, aquatic bugs and other frogs. Frog legs, unfortunately for the Pig Frog, area delicacy in Northern America and Pig Frogs are the most hunted frogs in Florida for this reason. Festivals are held in Florida where thousands of pounds of frog legs are consumed. Local hunting of Pig Frogs has inevitably caused some reductions in populations but according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Pig Frogs are in no danger of being a threatened species. They do cite that overall populations are declining and that habitat loss is the biggest threat to this amphibian.
Hopefully, if you hear the calls of the Pig Frog this time of the year you can take a moment to inspect the area for them. A walk along a boardwalk and spotting this frog, with some help from a fellow Master Naturalist, was the opportunity for this “sweet shot”. It was great to see the frog that I’ve so often heard alongside freshwater wetlands and pond areas on the golf course. If you’re out enjoying the sites and sounds of Sanibel’s protected lands enjoy the hunt for the Pig Frog, the hunt for the photo that is….not the frog legs.