SALT LAKE CITY — Forget about finding a prince after you catch a bullfrog; the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is hoping that instead of puckering up and planting a smooch, that you’ll take one home for dinner.
Breeding populations of bullfrogs have been known to be active in Utah since the 1970s, but the DWR says they don’t know when the first invasive amphibian made it to the Beehive State. Now that they’re here though, the DWR says they want them gone.
Originally native to the Eastern US, once introduced to an area like Utah, the bullfrog can become the dominant species in an area and outcompete, and eat, other native species.
Why are bullfrogs in Utah an issue?
The fact that bullfrogs are such a generalist predator is one of the reasons that Dr. Drew Dittmer, the Herpetologist and Native Species Coordinator with Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says bullfrogs are bad for Utah’s wetland habitats.
“There are a couple of things that are empirically “bad” about Bullfrogs in Utah. First and foremost, Bullfrogs are generalist predators, i.e., they will eat nearly anything that will fit in their mouth: bats, mice, and small birds have all been found inside of Bullfrog stomach contents.”
You can find enormous #bullfrogs here in Utah. They're an invasive species (so catch as many as you want), and they're really tasty!— UtahDWR (@UtahDWR) June 24, 2020
See this blog post for tips on catching and cooking them: https://t.co/1xtdnno5ZOpic.twitter.com/cXrxDLJgvo
Dittmer says that another concerning issue is that Bullfrogs are also known to predate on at least three species of Amphibians that Utah considers a Species of Greatest Conservation Need: Columbia Spotted Frogs, Northern Leopard Frogs, and Relict Leopard Frogs.
Another issue is that even if the bullfrogs don’t eat the native frogs and amphibians in Utah, they can pass on diseases.
Dittmer says that the amphibian specific disease known as Chytrid (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis or Bd for short) is a fungal infection that can prove fatal.
“Most of Utah’s native amphibians are known to be very susceptible to Bd. In Utah, as well as the rest of North America, Bd has certainly caused more amphibian declines and localized extirpations than nearly any other cause other than habitat loss. Unfortunately for Utah, invasive Bullfrogs can carry Bd but are highly resistant to the disease,” he tells KSL NewsRadio.
“Thus, once bullfrogs become established, even if Native Amphibians manage to avoid being predated upon, they ultimately succumb to an Bd infection that was transmitted via the presence of the Bullfrogs.”
Where are they in Utah?
The short answer is just about anywhere there’s water.
“In a broad sense we are aware that Bullfrogs can be found at Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge out in the West Desert, Matheson Wetlands Near Moab, most of the Virgin River in Washington County, and most of the freshwater wetlands that surround Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake,” Dittmer says.
He also says that they can also be found at many of the water bodies on golf courses as well as a lot of small farm ponds south of Utah Lake.
Ja Eggett with the DWR says you’ll know that you’re close if you just listen.
“They breed from late spring through early summer, during which time you’ll hear males call together in a chorus,” he says. “I think you could find them in many locations throughout the state.”
He says that they can grow to weigh up to a pound and a half and identified by their circular eardrum, called a tympanum, located on both sides of their heads. They’ll also likely be green or grey-brown with brown spots.
Utah says it’s open season on the bullfrog
Since the bullfrog is an invasive species, the DWR says that it’s open season all year round on the amphibian and there’s no limit to the number you can catch. But, Eggett says one of the best ways to catch the frogs is with fishing equipment, so he recommends having a fishing license.
“There is no limit and no season on bullfrogs in Utah. A license is not required to catch them, but because you will likely be using fishing gear — and might catch fish in the process of trying to catch frogs — you should have a fishing license while pursuing frogs.”
Eggett posted on the DWR’s blog with his favorite method is adding a grasshopper and a bobber, or a floating bass popper, but he says that they’ve also used some bowfishing gear to grab a few as well.
The outdoor company Realtree even says a good Froggin’ outing makes for great date night too. After you catch a few, Eggett says they make for a pretty tasty meal.
One thing to note, however, is that it is illegal to transport live bullfrogs in the state of Utah, so if you catch them and plan on taking them home and turning them into dinner, Eggett says they need to be dead.
What does a Bullfrog taste like?
“I think they taste like chicken, but a little chewier.” Eggett says, “Others think they taste like fish. So if you like chicken and fish like I do, you’ll love the taste of frog legs.”
Field and Stream suggests battering frog legs in pancake batter and frying them served with maple syrup, and cajun chef Jacques Gaspard says you can’t go wrong with a little cajun seasoning.
If you don’t want to eat bullfrog, that’s OK
If heading out Froggin’ doesn’t interest you, Dittmer says that one of the most valuable things you can do is post any of your bullfrog sitings on the iNaturalist app.
He says that the Division of Wildlife is managing a project called Herps of Utah where anyone can upload a photo of plants and animals they find and get help identifying them.
“Via the Herps of Utah project, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources can improve our understanding of the distribution of native and invasive species in Utah.
“This can help UDWR plan and strategize efforts to reduce/control Bullfrog populations in select locations. Additionally, and perhaps more important, the project helps us determine the presence of native amphibian species.
“This helps us prioritize efforts to secure the habitat for these species and potentially prevent problematic invasive species, like bullfrogs, from threatening the persistence of Utah’s native and unique biodiversity.”