How do I sneak up on a frog?
May 21, 2020 9:23 AM   Subscribe

How do I sneak up on a frog?

Recently I've been walking past a small pond which is clearly populated with frogs (toads?) I would like to see some (one?) of these creatures but what happens every time is this: I am walking in what I believe to be a quiet, stealthy way, and I hear a "plop!" which I can only guess is the sound of a frog detecting my presence and taking immediate evasive maneuvers. I immediately turn my head to the direction of the plop only to see the barest ripple in the water, with a speech bubble above it with the words "Haha!" above it. Ok, not that last past, but still: How does anyone ever see a frog?
posted by gwint to Science & Nature (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
You can't sneak up on a frog! The only way you'll satisfy your itch is by being very still for long enough for the disturbed frog to relax and reappear.

If frogs were able to be snuck up on, they'd be dinner for all kinds of creatures.
posted by anadem at 9:27 AM on May 21 [12 favorites]


Plop a chair down on the shore and wait. They jump in, but then return to the edge of the water.
posted by ReluctantViking at 9:28 AM on May 21 [7 favorites]


The waiting technique is best. Frogs are food for a lot of stuff, like herons, who wait. Be like a heron.

But if you want to actively sneak, drop to an army crawl and approach at about 2m/min.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:32 AM on May 21 [3 favorites]


As a kid, I found that the only way to sneak up on a frog was to be quietly swimming or wading, with my head very low in the water. It seems frogs then regarded me as a fellow water-dweller and I could get remarkably close without alarming them.
posted by niicholas at 9:35 AM on May 21 [3 favorites]


General advice for getting close to any small critter:

When you must move, do so very slowly. No, slower than what seems like very slow. From small-creature perspective, you as a human are ridiculously huge and that makes any movement you engage in terrifyingly fast.

Sit still. Wait. No, longer than that, and more still than that.

Do so repeatedly, over the course of several days. You'll see more and more critters simply from sitting still and being silent and observant, plus slowly becoming closer to part of their non-threatening environment.
posted by Drastic at 9:40 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


I used to catch frogs regularly. The trick is to approach very very slowly. Stop moving frequently. From behind the frog is the best vector.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:42 AM on May 21 [4 favorites]


I have never caught frogs like this, but mightn't a net-on-a-stick work?
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:06 AM on May 21


Listen to yourself as you stroll along. Can you hear yourself? Learn how to walk down your path by the pond without making a sound. If you walk that lightly even when there are not twigs to snap and leaves to rustle it will also mean you are not creating the vibrations that warn the critters you are getting close. Learning to walk silently in the woods is a fun skill to develop.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:08 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


A lot of frogs and amphibians and lizards like blue iguanas have an eye spot on top of their head or between their regular eyes. The eye spot is a set of light sensitive cells that detect light and shadow, and they use it to avoid flying or looming predators. I bet it's much more difficult to sneak up on any of these animals when the sun is providing good light and shadow definition.

I'm going to get an eye spot or a tapedum lucidum ( an extra light curtain at the back of the retina that bounces light twice in nocturnal animals) and a nictating membrane for sure when we can have genetic upgrades.
posted by effluvia at 10:48 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


I use to walk to a pond every lunch break to check out frogs. Kirth Gerson's approach is the one that works. Very very slow.

The other factor is learning to spot frogs. They are difficult to see but it becomes easier with practice.

8x binoculars can be helpful.
posted by bdc34 at 11:30 AM on May 21


I am a professional frog catcher (no, really), though IANYPFC (though you could hire me). Can you access the site at night? The best frog-catching technique is to go at night with a bright spotlight and binoculars, locate the frog via its eyeshine, and then keep the light in its eyes to blind it while you creep up on it. If you have to go in the daytime, bring binoculars and be patient, as described above. Ranid ("True") frogs favorite behavior is to find a place where they have shelter behind them (an undercut bank, high vegetation, etc.) and deep water in front of them. They sit at the water's edge waiting for prey to come by. If a predator comes instead, they can make a quick leap into the deep water before the preadtor even sees them, since they are hidden by the bank. Try approaching from the opposite bank and scanning carefully with binoculars. This is very difficult, they are well camouflaged, so night spotlighting is best.

FYI it's probably a frog, not a toad, as toads tend to walk and swim around rather than making these big leaps. They depend more on skin toxins for defense than on athleticism.
posted by agentofselection at 11:48 AM on May 21 [35 favorites]


I CAN'T be the only one here who would like to know more about the life of a professional frog-catcher.
posted by Dr. Wu at 11:55 AM on May 21 [25 favorites]


Technically I am a conservation biologist or whatever but that is less fun to say.
posted by agentofselection at 11:58 AM on May 21 [46 favorites]


When I was 7 or so I caught frogs and turtles at Lake Celeste, NY. The accepted technique was "go out in a canoe at 5:30 AM and sit motionless for 45 minutes until the frogs come out, then be fast with a net."
posted by dmd at 12:04 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


If your goal is food, then there is a thing called a 'frog gig', which is used for catching frogs for food in Louisiana and Texas, hence the 'Gig'em Aggies' call for Texas A&M University. Like everything else, it's easiest to go at night with headlights and they freeze and you jab them.

If it's for 'science' and you want to catch and release, then a butterfly net works fine.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:27 PM on May 21


I too am a PFC (at least during certain times of the year). I recommend sneaking very quietly to somewhere near the pond's edge where you can see the edge but you're not hovering over it and scaring the underwater creatures. Lean against a tree or alongside a bush if possible, and be prepared to sit there quietly for 20+ minutes. Using your eyes and your binoculars, scan the pond and the surrounding banks and vegetation very carefully. Depending on sunlight and shade you should be able to see pretty well under the surface with the binoculars. If not, consider moving to the opposite side of the pond. Take your time; amphibians camouflage really well!

You might consider getting a net like this random example that has a medium-deep pocket if you want to actually catch the frog. It can be a bit of an art to catch frogs without hurting them, so be gentle and let them go promptly. I also recommend looking up frog species in your area so you have an idea what characteristics (size, color, eye stripe, etc.) to pay attention to and make an ID.
posted by scrubjay at 12:37 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


When I was young, we often picked up & released leopard frogs from a large shallow marsh nearby. I think it was a particular environment where they were numerous, and we had the free time to explore, so maybe this doesn't apply here.

gwint ask question is about observing frogs, but there are some comments about catching them; As we all know, the best way to appreciate amphibians is to admire them in their natural habitat from a reasonable distance, of course.
posted by ovvl at 6:24 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


If childhood experience (grandma's farmhouse in NE VT, a small pond up the road we loved hanging out at as kids) is anything to go by (and with the usual caveats about how the safest way for all is not to catch a frog at all), their blind spot is low and behind them. You want to get as close to the rump as possible from as low as possible without getting close enough and slow enough that they feel the air pressure and don't be between them and the light. Their escape reflex (which you can trigger by touching their back from behind from this prep position, should you be trying to practice the approach only) is also a powerful leap forward, so if you time it right and aim to cup your hands slightly ahead of where they are, they'll jump right into your hand or a net, if you can get it into position quickly enough.

You need a tall bucket, too, if you're going to observe them for a while. As little brother, I got deputized to carefully break their tiny grips off as they climbed on each other to leap up, grab hold of the rim, and attempt to haul themselves out.

We always released them safely when we were done, and never deliberately hurt one, if memory serves. The worst thing that happened to us or the frogs was the time my brother stepped on a yellowjacket nest and it took me slightly too long to figure out why he was cursing and gesticulating, and in that instance, the frogs were fine.
posted by Earthtopus at 7:09 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


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