Lithobates catesbeianus
Lithobates catesbeianus
(American Bullfrog)
Native Transplant
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Lithobates catesbeianus (Shaw, 1802)

Common name: American Bullfrog

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Size: 9 - 15.2 cm

Native Range: Eastern United States, but historically absent from the Cape Cod archipelago and associated islands.

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Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:  

Arizona:  Populations are established in San Bernadion Wildlife Refuge in Cochise county, Leslie Canyon National Wildlife Refuge in Cochise county, and Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Pima County (USFWS, 2005).

California:  American Bullfrogs are established in Pixley National Wildlife Refuge-Tulare county, Colusa National Wildife Refuge [Sacramento region] - Colusa county, Kern National Wildlife Refuge - Kern county, Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge -Humboldt county, San Diego National Wildlife Refuge- San Diego county, and Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge - San Luis Obispo county, and the Trinity River - Trinity County (USFWS, 2005; Fuller et al. 2011).

Colorado:  Specimens are established in Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge (outside Denver) - Jefferson county (USFWS, 2005).

Hawaii:  Populations are established in Oahu Forest National Wildlife Refuge (in Haleiwa)  and James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, both in Honolulu county (USFWS, 2005).

Iowa:  Established in Desoto National Wildlife Refuge (Located along the Missouri River, 25 miles north of Omaha) in Harrison county (USFWS, 2005).

Massachusetts:  Stocked in Nantucket, the Vineyard, and the Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary, but now established only in Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary, Massachusetts.Established in Nomans Land Island National Wildlife Refuge (In the Atlantic Ocean 3.5 mi SW of Squibnocket Point; Martha's Vineyard; Town of Chilmark) - Dukes county and Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge (formerly referred to as the U.S. Army's Fort Devens Sudbury Training Annex)-Middlesex county (USFWS, 2005).

Nebraska:  Established in Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge - Washington county (USFWS, 2005).New Jersey:  Established Cape May National Wildlife Refuge - Cape May county (USFWS, 2005).

Nevada:  Established in Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, reservoirs in Lincoln county (USFWS, 2005).

Oregon:  Established in Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge - Marion county, Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge - Polk county,  Cold Springs National Wildlife Refuge - Umatilla county, Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge - Clackamas county, William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge - Benton county, Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge - Marrow county (USFWS, 2005).

Utah:  Established in Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge - Juab county (USFWS, 2005).

Washington:  Established in Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge - Klickitat county, Hanford Reach National Monument/Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge - Grant county, Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-tailed Deer - Wahkiakum county,   Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge - Wahkiakum county, Franz Lake National Wildlife Refuge (Along the Columbia River, 2.2 km (1.4 mi) WSW of Skamania)- Skamania county, McNary National Wildlife Refuge - Walla Walla county, McKay Creek National Wildlife Refuge, Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge - Yakima county, Pierce National Wildlife Refuge - Skamania county, Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge - Clark county, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and Columbia National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS, 2005).

Ecology: Found in lakes, ponds, cattle tanks, bogs, and sluggish portions of streams and rivers.  Breeds in June and July producing 10,000 to 20,000 eggs.  Tadpoles transform as quickly as 4 months in warmer climates and up to 3 years in colder locations.  In colder climates, bullfrogs require year-round persistence of water for tadpoles to mature and over-winter. This species has been shown to be an alternative host to the glochidia of native unionid mussel Utterbackia imbecillis (Watters and O'Dee 1998).

Means of Introduction: The original mode of introduction was probably through accidental introduction with fish stocking; however, other means of introduction have also contributed to the spread of this species in the western states.

Impact of Introduction: In Wellfleet, Lithobates catesbeiana is apparently expanding its population and out-competing the native Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans).  Larvae can have a significant impact upon benthic algae, and thus perturb aquatic community structure.  Where introduced populations have been studied in the Western U.S., adults consume birds, rodents, frogs, snakes, turtles, lizards, and bats.  They are voracious eaters who will also prey on their own young.

The introduced L. catesbeiana out-competes native amphibians in the modified portions of Trinity River, California (Fuller et al. 2011), indicating that habitat modification might aid in the establishment and spread of this invasive species.

Remarks: Frost et al. (2006) revised the genus Rana and most of the North, Central and South American "true frogs" were seperated from this taxon and placed into the new genus Lithobates (Frost et al., 2006; Crother, 2008; Collins and Taggart, 2009).  Scientific and standard English names follow Crother (2008).

Based on a study in western Washington, conservation of ephemeral wetlands will halt range expansions of bullfrogs.  Permanently inundated wetlands are more likely to house nonindigenous species.

References: (click for full references)

Collins, J.T. and T.W. Taggart. 2009. Standard common and current scientific names for North American amphibians, turtles, reptiles, and crocodilians. Sixth Edition. Publication of The Center for North American Herpetology, Lawrence. iv + 44p.

Crother, B.I. (chair). Committee on Standard and English and Scientific Names. 2008. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. Society for the Study of Amphibians and  Reptiles Herpetological Circular. No. 37. iii + 86p.

Frost, D. R., T. Grant, J. Faivovich, R. H. Bain, A. Haas, C. F. B. Haddad, R. O. De Sá, A. Channing, M. Wilkinson, S. C. Donnellan, C. J. Raxworthy, J. A. Campbell, B. L. Blotto, P. Moler, R. C. Drewes, R. A. Nussbaum, J. D. Lynch, D. M. Green, and W. C. Wheeler. 2006. The amphibian tree of life. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 297:1-370 + Fig. 50 foldout.

LeClere, J.  2002.  Bullfrog Rana catesbeiana.  Reptiles and Amphibians of Minnesota [online]. Available at URL: 

Watters, T.G. and S.H. O'Dee. 1998. Metamorphosis of freshwater mussel glochidia (Bivalvia: Unionidae) on amphibians and exotic fishes. Am. Midl. Nat. 139: 49-57.

Other Resources:
Bull frog (USDA) 

Bull frog (University of Michigan Museum)

Rana catesbeiana (bullfrog) (Global Invasive Species Program)

Author: Liz McKercher, and Denise R. Gregoire

Revision Date: 9/14/2011

Citation Information:
Liz McKercher, and Denise R. Gregoire, 2018, Lithobates catesbeianus (Shaw, 1802): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL,, Revision Date: 9/14/2011, Access Date: 1/19/2018

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [1/19/2018].

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