Kentucky Is Home to a Poisonous Species of Frog
When I was a kid, it was fun to catch frogs. We'd never hurt them, and we'd let them go as soon as we caught them. But kids, you know?
FUN WITH FROGS IN KENTUCKY
It wasn't that long ago that I was out on the front porch after a very long period of rainfall, and I heard some splashing around. A large bowl I'd filled with water for a stray cat that wanders near our house had a visitor--a great big bullfrog. He was just having the best time. With no ponds around, he clearly hit the jackpot.
When he was obviously ready to get out, I helped him. I didn't hold him too long; he was as squirmy as you could imagine. But it did bring back memories.
PLEASE DON'T LICK THE FROGS
What I did NOT do was lick the poor thing. Apparently, it's become necessary for the National Park Service to issue warnings to stop licking Sonoran desert frogs. Why people have to be asked to stop licking a frog is beyond me. But here we are.
The reason for the warning is that that particular species of frog is poisonous; CNN reports it emits a toxin that can cause hallucinations. Don't worry; we don't have those in Kentucky. But we DO have the Pickerel frog, and it is also poisonous.
A KENTUCKY FROG THAT ISN'T MUCH FUN
Doesn't it seem perfectly content? Well, if it wasn't, it would activate its defense mechanism-- a secretion that's merely an irritant to other animals (us humans included) but deadly to other amphibians, as explained by the Kentucky Department for Fish and Wildlife Resources:
Most kinds of frogs have at least some chemical protection from predators in their skin, but Pickerel Frogs are better protected than the others. When stressed, these frogs release a sour-smelling skin secretion that can irritate most animals' mucus membranes and may kill other amphibians.
No, it won't kill you, but neither will poison ivy, and you don't want that on you either.
THE UNUSUAL CROAK OF A PICKEREL FROG
So how will you know if a Pickerel frog is nearby? The same way EVERYONE knows--its voice. Typically, we all HEAR frogs before we see them, but not all frog calls are alike; far from it. Check this out:
I had to laugh, and I'm still laughing. It sounds like a belch to me. It just does. No, I'm a grown-up and BELCHES aren't inherently funny. But if a frog sounds like one? Well, that's funny.
PICKEREL FROGS VS. HARMLESS LEOPARD FROGS
To make matters a tad bit more complicated, harmless leopard frogs look very much like Pickerel frogs:
A Pickerel Frog can easily be mistaken for a Northern or Southern Leopard Frog. All are medium-sized, spotted frogs that rarely sit still long enough to allow for a close look. Pickerel Frogs have a tan to bronze ground color (never bright green!) with oblong to squarish chocolate brown spots arranged in 2 or 3 parallel rows running down the back between the rounded but prominent bronze-colored dorsolateral folds.
In short, know your frogs. I doubt Pickerels will give you much trouble, but it IS interesting to know there's a frog in Kentucky that comes equipped with a defensive toxin. I thought poisonous frogs were reserved for the jungles of other continents. (Those you REALLY don't want to mess with.)
But I guess I was wrong.