Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the February 16, 2009 Newsletter, issued from near Natchez, Mississippi:

On February 9th in the bayou below Karen's house just a foot or so above the sandy floor we found a Pickerel Frog, RANA PALUSTRIS, so benumbed by the cold that my camera lens two inches from his face didn't provoke a flinch. Maybe he'd just emerged from hibernation. You can see him, with distinctive parallel rows of dark, blocky blotches running down his back, shown above.

Pickerel Frogs are a fair-sized species, about three inches long. Sometimes they're confused with heavily blotched leopard frogs, but the leopard frog's back blotches aren't so consistently rectangular as the Pickerel's. One summer back in my hermit days near here a Pickerel Frog became a neighbor for several weeks. In the July 14, 2002 Newsletter I reported that "He spends the day beneath my trailer clinging to a cinderblock, then ranges around at night."

Often when I refer to animals as "he" I don't really know which sex lies before me: I just can't bear to refer to critters as "its," so I call them "hes." However I'm pretty sure the frog in the picture is a "he" because of his large eardrums, or tympanums, which in the picture shows up as a brown, circular area behind and about the size of the eye. Often male frogs and toads have larger tympanums than females, and the tympanum in the picture is much larger than the individual's in the Audubon field guide, which I reckon to be a female.

Notice how the bones in the frog's back protrude. This is what you'd expect of a frog who's been hibernating, slowly but continually burning energy stored in his body fat.