“Jeremiah was a bullfrog, he was good friend of mine. I never understood a single word he said, but I helped him drink his wine. And he always had some mighty fine wine. Singin’ joy to the world... ,”
Hoyt Axton created the lyrics on the spot when a producer needed words to go along with a new melody that Axton was pitching. But with all due respect to Axton, Jeremiah and Three Dog Night, I’ve never found bullfrogs particularly friendly, let alone wine connoisseurs.
They’re aggressive, eat voraciously and are usually on top of the pond or swamp food chain. Unfortunately, when invasive bullfrogs are introduced to new digs, they can destroy the indigenous frog population.
Wonder if those characteristics led to the Green Bay Bullfrogs baseball team naming its mascot Jeremiah? Bullfrogs have also been claimed by a brewery, a sunblock, a band, a sports bar, a rust and corrosion protection system, an inn in Belize, an adventure company and the state amphibian for Iowa, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
And, I kid you not, the liquid plastic Bullfrog Snot. For $24.95 an ounce, you, too, can create more traction for your model trains. If you want a visual description, use your imagination.
But back to Jeremiah, who is extremely territorial and will challenge other males with go-away calls and displays, or resort to jumping and chasing the competition.
Females, who have smaller eardrums than males, are not impressed with croaking. They are attracted to males with powerful booming low-frequency bass notes that can be heard a quarter-mile away, a sound frequently compared to a bull’s roar, thus bull-frog, a bwum-bwum-bwum, or jug-o-ram if you prefer.
Research into bullfrog specifics is somewhat frustrating. Animal studies often don’t allow black-and-white conclusions once past number of legs and eyes.
You can see that in the spread of longevity (four or five years; up to eight to 10), or average number of tiny eggs in a clutch (4,000 to 78,000), or many other factors.
Bullfrogs have the edge in the North American frog population: the life span is longer than smaller frogs; they are extremely prolific; body length is in the 4-to-6-inch range although record holders are around 8 in inches (then add powerful 7-to-10-inch legs and you’ve have Frogzilla); juveniles can travel a mile away to new ponds or slow-moving streams; they lay more eggs than other frogs; they tolerate polluted conditions; and they don’t have many natural predators, in part because of toxic secretions.
Their ability to leap 3 to 6 feet provides a fairly large dinner table. A bullfrog will patiently wait, usually at night, until movement triggers an eye-closing, mouth-opening, tongue-extending lunge that swallows the whole meal or, if too large for froggie’s mouth, it stuffs the rest down its throat with its forearms.
The amphibian, and cousin to toads and salamanders, has been known to occasionally dive underwater with prey in its mouth. Stomach-content studies have found snakes, frogs, birds, bats, small turtles and rodents, birds, tadpoles, fish, beetles and snails.
According to “Amphibians of the Northwest (Seattle Audubon Society), bullfrogs were introduced to the Northwest in 1895 for food and out of nostalgia for the South and Midwest.
Then there was the farm-the-frogs movement 1920-1940 and when farms failed, the bullfrogs got away.
Regardless of my lack of appreciation, bullfrogs do have a few good points. Found in high numbers, they can help control the mosquito population in their area; countless students have learned a bit of anatomy by dissecting them; and some people consider frog legs a delicacy.
Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.