By Kenneth L. Kieser
July 14, 2011
Recently I was asked to write a story about bullfrog breeding in Antarctica. I thought about this for some time before contacting an outdoor writer buddy of mine who lives in Antarctica. I knew he would have useful information into this all-important and yet sometimes forgotten matter. He had retired for the day and sat staring at a roaring fire in his wigwam or whatever he lived in while concentrating on a glass of scotch and a good cigar when my phone call came through.
“Bullfrog breeding? Here you say?” he queried.
“Yes, a magazine editor requested that I write about this important subject.”
‘Well, yes, we do have bullfrogs here and I am certain that they breed, but no one ever cared to ask why or how. Really no one really wanted to look at them breeding—a ghastly sight I am told. We just know that eventually a bunch of little frogs will be hoping around, that is until something eats them.
“You know, it’s a wonder that there are any frogs left to breed. Everything seems to want to eat them here, puzzling, don’t you think? You know, come to think of it, I never have seen a frog breeding here or anywhere else, must be quite a ghastly sight.”
I realized that his wisdom would not suffice after all and decided to take this issue a step further—I would Google it. I want to make a public service announcement by saying, don’t ever Google bullfrogs breeding in Antarctica. You will get pictures of several people dressed up like frogs and they are—well you can only imagine.
But since we are on the subject of frogs, I recently received a reader’s letter that really made me think. The gentleman asked:
“I just heard that frogs have a season. Frogs are little green creatures who sit around all day with dumb looks on their faces. They eat stuff no one would want and make rude noises. They stay in about the same spot most of their lives and never bother anyone. So why would anyone want to shoot, stab or bludgeon a frog?”
I pondered that question for the better part of several hours with three other outdoor communicators in front of a roaring fire with a bottle soda pop and of course, good cigars. I asked them to study this question so we could come up with an intelligent answer. We didn’t. But they agreed that it was a good question.
We finally decided to visit a nearby pond and determine why anyone would want to kill a frog. But first I contacted an independent contractor frog biologist. I felt that calling this well-known gentleman in the field of frog research was a good move when he asked for an hour to load his field equipment and would we stop by and haul the two big boxes? We wondered what equipment he could be loading in our trunk. This quagmire might have turned out differently if we had known.
That afternoon we drove to the big pond in search of frog facts that we could share with our readers. The biologist, a funny little man with thick glasses and big bugged-out eyes, followed us on his Cushman motor scooter. We hauled several boxes for him marked “Scientific Material.” We could only occasionally see him as gravel dust flew from my tires. He had a determined look on his face with dirty goggles and clenched teeth.
I noticed on arrival that several big bull frogs were lined up on the bank. He quickly unpacked the boxes and laid out four frog suits. I said, “Not me, boy,” and took off running. The others quickly ran me down since I was the one who started this. Soon we squeezed into the green suits and hopped down the bank.
I quickly took a frog posture with my buddies and the frog biologist. We watched to see what offensive or disgusting moves the frogs would execute. The frog suits let us blend in. I noticed the frog biologist started flicking his tongue at passing flies for realism. We quickly assured him that that much realism was not necessary because it was making us sick. I think the frogs bought it anyway.
After several hours we determined that they were not going to do anything offensive or disgusting at least while we were there. If anything, the frogs seemed to be casting bored looks at the biologist who started hopping up and down the bank while trying to make guttural frog sounds that he claimed were used in mating rituals. Each real frog seemed to have a puzzled look on his or her face, but my observations have shown that they always look that way. I deduced that they were analyzing us, perhaps trying to figure out what kind of frog grew that large. Or maybe they were just watching the frog biologist – we certainly were.
I heard a real frog go “Croak.” One of my comrades suggested that the frog was trying to communicate. We decided to find another frog specialist and ask what “Croak” means in frog language. But more importantly, we decided to sneak away from the frog biologist who frankly was scaring us.
Later that week I took this investigation a step further by contacting the Federal Frog Research Office in Kansas City. The man I talked to claimed that his office probably received 100 calls a month from outdoor enthusiasts concerned with odd frog behavior. He suggested that we drive to West Virginia where biologists at the Frog Research Center study this important data daily. I concluded that he was right and besides, we could do a road trip in the name of science.
Driving across several states gave us time to ponder our adversary, the frog.
I once broke the silence: “Who do you suppose was the first person to eat frog legs –and why did they want to?”
I received several dirty stares and no answer. After all, it was almost lunch time. Outdoor writers are noted for having weak stomachs.
But I still wondered who was hungry enough to try frog legs for the first time? Sure, I know that frog legs taste good, but they didn’t know that then. Well, someone tried eating a frog the first time. Can you imagine what the neighbors said?
“Don’t look Mary, that idiot is eating a frog again. Oh my stars, that ghoul is eating the legs. GAG! Turn your head Honey, don’t look. GAG!”
Finally we arrived at the Frog Institute of West Virginia. A sweet lady in a sporty yet not too stuffy business suit pointed us down an incredibly long hallway. We walked past doors labeled Frog Posture Management, Frog Breath Management and many other types of managements before coming to “The West Virigina Hall of Frog Observation, Management and Research.”
I excitedly pushed the door open to find at least 30 biologists doing frog stuff in a huge room. But the sign at one section of this elaborate hall was what we came for, “Frog Language –What Does It Mean?
I found a little man with dark rimmed glasses and a white scientist’s coat. I marveled at his stacks of reference books and stacks of papers with important frog documentation he had no doubt recorded during years of research. He viewed me with a stern look for a seemingly long time before asking, “Did they send you?”
“No one sent me,” I answered. “But I am seeking your wisdom on what a frog might have communicated to me.”
I explained the “Croak” and he asked me a bunch of questions: What was the frog’s voice pitch, what kind of look did the frog have on its face, how did the others react and what did you do?
I answered, “Low, stupid, ignored and nothing.”
He started studying files and listened to tapes of different frog sounds before saying, “That frog called you a moron, now who sent you?”
So, I must conclude by saying that I don’t know if bullfrogs breed in Antarctica or if they smoke a cigarette afterwards or what they do. I only know that medical science has discovered that frog research could be the next big step in understanding ourselves!