Froggy went a courtin’

28 March 2007

These pictures accurately represent the state of the Toad Tunnel as of 1/16/2005
photo from

...I don’t see frogs or toads around Davis much, although the ubiquitous herons and egrets presumably see a few more than I do. Of course, even though I don’t often see them I know they are here. The first calm night after a spring rainstorm roils in the sex-crazed calls of thousands of Pacific Treefrog (Pseudacris regilla). Other members of this ‘chorus frog’ genus fill the same pandemonious role across other parts North America.

Davis’ infamous ‘toad tunnel’, lauded in a children’s book and lambasted by the Daily Show, probably serves mostly treefrogs, if anyone. Though both Bufo and Spea (that’s toads, sensu-stricto and sensu-spado, if we can call a spade a spade) are liable to be around here somewhere.

The tunnel was an effort to mitigate frog-cakes resulting from the construction of a highly trafficked overpass. Reportedly, the amphibians first eschewed the tunnel, then fried themselves on the lights installed to light their way, and finally emerged into the waiting gullet of savvy anurovorous avians waiting on the other side.

Never Give Up, copper and steel by Paul Hubler (1997).

Sadly, the frogs I’m most likely to encounter in Davis are bad old American Bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana). The presence of these alien invaders is usually announced by a telltale plop as I walk through the UCD arboretum. They pose a far more serious threat to native amphibians, through competition and predation, than 100,000,000 Firestones.

Frog diversity generally increases as you head out of the Central Valley and into the Coast Ranges or Sierra foothills or up into the Klamath.  A handful of endemic toads are sprinkled throughout the mountains across the state.  The hills are also the domain of Mark Twain’s celebrated jumping frog, the Red-legged Frog (Rana draytonii).  The folks of Angel’s Camp still have an annual frog jumping contest, but the Red-legged Frog is probably more cursed than celebrated these days, at least among developers hoping to squeeze a thousand home subdivision into a charming mountain valley.


Vintage Postcard from Angel’s Camp.

The true amphibian masters of the mountains don’t jump, and don’t sing but they can wriggle like heck and we’ll meet them next.

One Response to “Froggy went a courtin’”

  1. Jessica Says:

    According to the infamous Steve, Tom Sawyer was a bar tender in a bar in or near Angels Camp and told Mark Twain the story of the jumping frogs. This Tom Sawyer of course had a girlfriend named Betty and has signed his name on the wall in California Caverns, outside of which Mr. Twain supposedly had his cabin. When writing the story of Tom Sawyer, Twain apparently used CA-Caverns for the cave description since he couldn’t remember too well what Missouri caves looked like. Lucky for him, CA-Caverns looks the most like southeast US caves (to me, at least) when compared to other Sierra foothills caves. So, I don’t know if that all is true, but it I guess it could be.

    More directly believable, I think, is Steve’s story of almost locking 4 stoned teenagers into the cave for the winter (by accident) in total darkness. Funny!

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