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I think that many who don’t live in our desert are surprised when they learn that it is home to several species of amphibians. All amphibians depend on water to one extent or another. Some live in water full time, others are never far away from water, and all amphibians lay their eggs in water. In southern Arizona several native amphibian species have adapted to the extremely dry climate by being dormant for most of the year, becoming active only after our summer rains have begun (which, thankfully, has finally happened).
And then there are Bullfrogs. Bullfrogs are an introduced species. It’s unclear how they got here but they have thrived. Every pond or canal in southern Arizona seems to have its resident population of non-native Bullfrogs.
They are a nuisance. Bullfrogs are huge — up to nine inches in length and weighing nearly a pound — they are voracious predators, and they breed prolifically. They are also almost legendarily tough, having the ability to travel for substantial distances out of water as they search for new homes. In southern Arizona, they’ve outcompeted most of the local frogs. Ponds that once were populated with native species are now exclusively the bullfrogs’ home. Bullfrogs are predators and pretty ferocious ones at that. They’ll eat anything that they can grab with their huge mouths, including fish, aquatic bird hatchlings, and other frogs, including smaller Bullfrogs.
These invaders are here to stay. No one has come up with a means to eliminate them. Evidently, Americans’ appetite for frog legs (or, at least, Arizonans’ appetite) is insufficient to pose a significant threat to our Bullfrogs. Given that, one might as well accept their presence and admire them. Because, invasive or not, they are beautiful.
I photographed both of these individuals one morning a couple of weeks ago at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson. No two of these frogs have exactly the same coloration and the patterns on each frog’s body are unique. Some come in muted tones, as is the case with this first individual. Others are much more brightly colored and patterned as the second frog demonstrates.
All of these frogs have characteristically beautiful golden eyes.
Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 1000, f6.3, with the camera supported by bracing it against a fence railing. The first image shot at 1/250, the second at 1/160.