North American Bullfrog

Rana catesbeiana

"Worst Choice" Pet Worst Choice

The North American bullfrog is native to the central and eastern U.S. and southeastern Canada. These bullfrogs have been introduced to Hawaii, parts of the western U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, and Asia. They are usually found along the shorelines of permanent swamps, ponds, and lakes. Bullfrogs are the largest true frogs in North America, weighing up to 1 pound and reaching about 8 inches in length. They vary in color from brownish to green.

Did You Know?

The North American bullfrog is native to the central and eastern U.S.

Source Sustainability Best Choice

Does the harvest for wildlife trade or captive breeding of this species harm wild populations?

Little Cause for Concern

Wild populations of North American bullfrogs appear to be thriving. In fact, they are invasive in some regions of North America.

PetWatch Recommendation:

Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally wild-caught and/or imported animal.

Invasion Threat Worst Choice

Does the release or escape of this species into the wild harm the environment and/or economy?

Significant Cause for Concern

The North American bullfrog is a highly invasive species and is listed as one of the "World's Worst Invaders". They have been introduced widely and wild populations are found around the world. Introduced bullfrogs prey on native amphibians and compete for habitat and food. They are also known to be efficient carriers of the infectious fungal disease chytridiomycosis, which can kill native amphibian species.

PetWatch Recommendation:

Before obtaining any non-traditional pet, check that it is legal to own one in your state of residence and check for permitting requirements. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally imported or wild-caught animal. Always keep your pet inside a safe and secure enclosure. Never release a pet into the wild.

Animal Welfare Best Choice

Does harvest, captive breeding, transport, or being kept as a pet harm individual animals?

Little Cause for Concern

Ease of care of many non-traditional pets depends on the individual owner’s years of experience and knowledge caring for a particular species. For the purposes of this website, we have geared information toward the benefit of the beginner.

Bullfrogs require large, semi-aquatic tanks. Bullfrogs should not be housed together after tadpole stage because they may attack each other. The tank should contain half to a third water and the rest should be sealed off to form a land area comprised of substrates, including moss and soil. Good water quality through frequent water changes, appropriate temperature gradient, and a UV light are required.

Frogs may also carry Salmonella, which if ingested can cause vomiting and diarrhea; these symptoms are usually mild in healthy adults but can be fatal to infants and young children, or anyone with a compromised immune system. It is important to wash hands before and after each time an animal is handled.

PetWatch Recommendation:

Before purchasing a bullfrog, be sure to research the animal’s specific care requirements. Talk to your veterinarian about the proper diet and housing for your pet.

Health Threat Worst Choice

Does this animal pose a health risk to native wildlife, humans, livestock and agriculture?

Significant Cause for Concern

North American bullfrogs are known carriers of the highly infectious amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), which causes the disease chytridiomycosis. This fungus is a significant threat to most frog species and has been linked to massive die-offs and recent extinctions of native frogs around the world. The international trade in these bullfrogs for the pet and food trades has been implicated in the global spread of chytridiomycosis and Ranavirus, another disease highly harmful to amphibians.

Frogs may also carry Salmonella, which if ingested can cause vomiting and diarrhea; these symptoms are usually mild in healthy adults but can be fatal to infants and young children, or anyone with a compromised immune system. It is important to wash hands before and after handling an animal.

PetWatch Recommendation:

When purchasing a pet, ask for a list of any medical treatments the animal has received. The fungal disease chytridiomycosis may be harmful to the health of your frog and native frogs. To learn more about chytridiomycosis and the symptoms of disease, we recommend reviewing the information on Amphibian Ark.

EcoHealth Alliance works at the intersection of ecosystem, animal and human health through local conservation programs and develops global health solutions to emerging diseases.
More about EcoHealth Alliance