On December 7th, 2016, SAVE THE FROGS! and the Center for Biological Diversity submitted a petition to the California Fish & Game Commission (FGC) calling on the state to ban the importation of live American Bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) by adding the species to the state’s list of restricted animals. The addition would help prevent future introductions of bullfrogs, which in California are a non-native, invasive amphibian.
Photo of American Bullfrog courtesy Jock Branson
Bullfrogs prey upon and compete with California’s native wildlife, and play a role in the spread of disease. The American Bullfrog is included in the Global Invasive Species Database’s list of “One Hundred of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species.” In 1997 the European Union banned the importation of live American bullfrogs due to their invasiveness, yet about 2 million live bullfrogs are currently imported into California every year. The California Department of Fish & Wildlife issued a 2014 report “Implications of Importing American Bullfrogs into California” that clearly demonstrates the threat caused to California’s native wildlife by American Bullfrogs.
“Bullfrogs have already inflicted significant damage on California’s wildlife populations, including many that are threatened with extinction,” said Jenny Loda, a biologist and attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Every new shipment of live bullfrogs into California presents the threat of further introductions of this highly invasive frog. We simply can’t take the risk.”
An animal can be added to the “restricted animals” list by the FGC when it “is proven to be undesirable and a menace to native wildlife.” The FGC has previously used its authority to restrict live imports of other non-native, invasive animals that pose similar threats as bullfrogs, including carp, water snakes and some species of abalone.
SAVE THE FROGS! has been campaigning for an end to live bullfrog importations into California since May of 2010, when SAVE THE FROGS! Founder Dr. Kerry Kriger spoke at a Fish & Game Commission hearing on the topic. At that hearing, the Commission voted to disallow the importation of live non-native frogs and turtles into the state, but the Department of Fish & Wildlife never abided by the Commission’s instructions, resulting in over ten million additional American Bullfrogs entering the state due to the Department’s failure to act on behalf of native wildlife. Our current petition will hold more legal force if it is successful.
Live American Bullfrogs piled high in a San Francisco market. Photo by Michael Starkey.
“It’s about time. Back in the 1990’s the population of tree frogs and reg-legged frogs were completely depleted from south Napa in the town of Napa, CA. This was in the creek at Old Sonoma Road next to a school building. The tree frogs used to be so loud at night and then one year we had flooding, we got bullfrogs swimming over the dam into the creek, and that was the end of the native frogs. I personally love bullfrogs as long as they are native to an area, such as Vermont. They are very beautiful. However importing them to sell in open markets is cruel and disgusting. I feel really sorry for them.”
— Louise Salant