Man versus bullfrog, Round I

Alarmed that a visiting bullfrog might disrupt his backyard ecology, the writer leapt to action.

I love frogs. This stems from my childhood, when on summer nights I'd be sung to sleep through open windows by bullfrogs croaking in our backyard pond, accompanied by a chorus of tree frogs. I grew to appreciate their fascinating transformation from tadpole to adult. And because of their sensitive skin, frogs are harbingers of our environment.

This latent love for and fascination with frogs was shelved for much of my adult life until my wife and I were shopping for a new house seven years ago. I knew she was looking for certain things in a home, so I let her take the lead in the search. Only if she really liked the house, would I show up for a walk-through with the real estate agent.

One of these had a pleasant sunroom off the back, and as we visited in the cool of the early evening, the windows were open. Then I heard them: frogs croaking in the backyard ponds. I tried to remain calm in front of the agent, but in my heart I knew this was the house for us.

After the sale I became acquainted with the newest members of our family. I live in the southeastern United States, and the most common native frog is the green frog. They appear bronze in color, but have green around their mouths, earning the nickname "lime-lippers." According to one description, their croak sounds like a loosely strung banjo. I quickly learned to identify the difference between male and female and watched with joy as eggs were laid, hatched into tadpoles, and grew into frogs.

My favorite month is June when June bugs swarm to the screens around our sunroom at night as I leave the bright overhead light on to attract them. I then go out and harvest the catch to feed to my frog friends. Some frogs are so used to seeing me that they hop toward my flashlight in anticipation of a meal. On a rare occasion they will take a bug right out of my hand.

All was well until one night last summer when I saw a much larger frog than usual hop into one of the ponds. I looked online to see if I could identify it and after another sighting there was no doubt: She was a bullfrog. I looked up a bullfrog's diet and found out that it includes insects, small snakes, and other frogs. I was horrified.

To make matters worse, I was scheduled shortly to leave town for two weeks. I could just imagine returning home to empty ponds. I had to take action and capture that bullfrog! But how? My wife sent out the call for nets to fellow moms in her mom's club and several showed up within a day or two. The only problem was I couldn't get close to the bullfrog. As soon as I approached she jumped in the water. I consulted a high school classmate who is an avid outdoorsman and used to hunt them. "They're smart," he counseled.

I did not want to harm the frog, merely catch and release her into a nearby larger pond, far enough away that she wouldn't return. Finally, with only a couple of days until my trip, I grabbed the fishing pole out of the garage, snagged a large beetle off our screens to use as bait, and tossed it into the pond. It was about 1 in the morning.

I didn't have to wait long before I got a bite. After a brief struggle I pulled the frog out of the pond but she promptly wriggled off the hook. Unprepared for my success, I had to reach for the net. Fortunately, she was stunned by the ordeal and I easily scooped her into a bucket, ready for the short trip in my car to the other pond.

On the way I wished her a long, happy life and success in finding a nice male bullfrog. I then released her into the wild.

This summer we have another uninvited guest. She is not as big as last year's bullfrog, and my frogs have had a year to grow larger, so there doesn't seem to be an immediate threat. But I'm watching, and I now know how to capture a bullfrog if Round 2 is necessary.

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