By act of the Missouri State Legislature, the bullfrog has a new title -- State Amphibian. However, its newly elevated status won't prevent thousands of Missourians from plying rivers, lakes and ponds each summer in search of the main ingredient for a plate of frog legs.
Fried, sautéed, grilled or baked, frog legs are gourmet fare. Missouri law allows those with valid fishing permits to pursue bullfrogs and their smaller cousins -- green frogs -- with gigs, hand nets, snares, fishing lines, longbows or bare hands. A hunting permit entitles the holder to take bullfrogs and green frogs with a .22-caliber rim-fire rifle or pistol, pellet gun, longbow, crossbow, hand net or with bare hands.
The season opened at sunset June 30 and runs through Oct. 31. The daily limit is eight green frogs and bullfrogs in the aggregate. The possession limit is 16. If you choose the right frogs, 16 legs is a lot of food.
Unlike most other game, frogs can be pursued at night with the aid of artificial lights. In fact, a high-powered spotlight is almost essential for success.
The bullfrog is North America's biggest frog, measuring well over a foot when stretched out in a leap. Large specimens can weigh more than a pound, much of which is legs. Green frogs are more modest-sized, topping out at about eight inches.
Green frogs have folds of skin that run from the back of each eye down the sides of their backs. Bullfrogs lack this feature. Male and female green frogs and bullfrogs can be distinguished by the size of the circular tympanic membrane (the frog's ear) behind the eye. If the membrane is much larger than the eye, the frog is a male. If it is about the same size or smaller than the eye, it is a female.
They will eat insects, crayfish, amphibians, small mammals, birds, snakes, small turtles and baby muskrats and minks.
Bullfrogs and green frogs use their sticky tongues to subdue prey, but that's not their only method of securing food. Large frogs are more likely to lunge at their targets. Once they get a grip with their wide, sturdy jaws, they use their front feet to shove food down their gullets. Frogs are prey for minks, raccoons, herons, snakes and, of course, humans.