Bio Facts: Frog, Florida Gopher
Florida Gopher Frog
Rana capito aesopus
Coastal plain from North Carolina to Florida and along the Gulf coast to extreme eastern Louisiana.
Moist meadows, prairie woodlands, and pine scrub.
Medium-sized, short, squat frog (up to 4.33”). Dusky gray with scattering of black spots. Bronze to brownish ridges along side of back. Pudgy body.
In the wild, they feed on insects, invertebrates and even other frogs and toads.
FL, GA - Species of Special Concern.
Gopher frogs are very secretive, and spend a great deal of time on land away from the water. They are active at night and hide during the day, often hiding in burrows made by other animals, particularly crayfish and gopher tortoises. It is an opportunistic feeder, as are most of the larger frog species.
In the springtime gopher frogs migrate up to a mile to isolated ponds where they sing, mate and lay eggs. Their breeding song is a resonant snore that can be heard for a mile on calm, rainy nights. Typically they are explosive breeders, normally after heavy rains. The heavy rains from late fall through early winter trigger congregation and breeding. The gopher frog is a year-round breeder in southern areas, in spring and early summer in northern areas. Egg masses are laid in shallow water, sometimes attached to vegetation. Fertilization is external. Eggs hatch in four to five days and transform from tadpoles into frogs at 85 to 100 days. Transformed young are 1 to 1.5 inches (27-38 mm) long. After transforming, froglets must leave the pond and find a tortoise burrow.
The gopher frog’s voice is a deep, resonating guttural snore. Heavy rains in late winter sometimes stimulate choruses. This species is sometimes considered the same species as the more westerly crawfish frog (R. areolata).
Calls sound like prolonged, rasping snores.
When one is picked up, it puts its hands in front of its face, shielding its eyes.
These frogs will travel great distances to reach breeding ponds. Otherwise they seldom range far from the entrance of their daytime retreat - a stump hole, an abandoned burrow of a crawfish or small rodent, or the active burrow of a Gopher Tortoise.
One of the nicknames for this frog is “White Frog” due to its light gray, almost white, base color that is decorated with brown spots and bars.
Because frogs are often seen in great numbers as it begins to rain, they have long been credited as rain-bringers and are symbolic of fecundity and fertility. The Aztec/Nahua cosmology has a frog-like monster, Tlaltecuhtli, serving as a symbol of the Earth floating in the primeval sea.
Several folk superstitions have developed around the frog. One suggested that if one placed the tongue of a live frog over a wife’s beating heart while she slept, it would act as a truth drug. If one killed a frog, it was believed that one’s cow would die. If one made a wish at the first sound of a frog call in spring, the wish would come true. Among gamblers, it was good luck to come across a frog on your way to a card game.
Many folk cures for thrush rely on frogs or toads. The placement of a frog in a patient’s mouth was thought to cure the disease.
An American Indian woman wanting to avoid pregnancy would catch a frog and spit in its face three times.
It is said that frogs are like gossips – they drink and talk.
With the diminishing numbers of gopher tortoises, gopher frogs have been deprived of their preferred habitat, gopher tortoise burrows.