No matter where you have lived, you probably have run across a frog at one point in your life. These amphibians live on every continent except Antarctica. There is no doubt that these are curious creatures, but have you ever wondered what predators eat frogs?
Frogs have many predators they have to stay one hop ahead of. Snakes, birds, fish, small mammals, and other reptiles all feast on flighty frogs. Most frogs have a few defense mechanisms to protect them, but their predators have overcome such obstacles and continue to feast on the amphibians.
Probably the most famous frog in the world, Kermit, sings “It’s not easy being green.” I certainly believe him because there are plenty of hungry animals out there looking to make these long-legged hoppers lunch. Or dinner…breakfast…you get the point.
How Can Frogs Defend Themselves?
Frogs don’t have sharp teeth, long claws, or a mean disposition with a sinister promise to “call your manager.” They don’t have a hard shell, tough scales on their skin, or much of anything physical to help them defend against becoming a meal.
How does something this small and helpless defend itself from the multitude of predators that want to eat it? Frogs must have some sort of defense because they are still found all around the world.
Frogs Use Foul Smelling Urine
Have you ever picked up a frog or a toad only to have it pee all over your hands? Remember people saying that if a toad peed on you, you’d get warts? That’s not how that happens, by the way, it’s just a myth.
The sudden release of the bladder is one defense mechanism that frogs have to protect them from being eaten. Most predators use their mouths, and more frighteningly, their sharp teeth to grab onto and catch their food. I’m sure when they get a mouthful of frog waste, it’s a very unpleasant surprise.
The urine can have a strong odor, a foul taste, and contain a lot of bacteria. For predators that aren’t used to this defense, it can be a nasty surprise. Sometimes, whoever was trying to eat the frog will quickly let the nasty-tasting thing go on its way.
Long Legs Are Made For Getting Away
Most frogs have very strong, and very long legs (compared to their body.) These legs are kept folded very close to their body. When a frog jumps, it’s like a released spring that sends them flying through the air.
Some frogs are able to jump from 10 to 20 times their body length. They quickly fold their legs back up and jump again. Before you know it, the frog is too far away to catch.
When frogs perceive a threat they can jump far away instantly. Leaving the predator wondering how, and where its food disappeared.
Some Frogs Can Bite
Yes, you heard that right. Frogs can bite. Some of them.
When something is in a fight for its life, it will employ anything it can. Though most frogs have soft jaws and don’t have any bite force or teeth, there always seems to be that rare exception.
According to the Florida Museum, there are some frogs that have tiny teeth only in their upper jaws, and some others actually have fang-like teeth. This is incredibly rare though as only about 1 frog out of 7,000 species has upper and lower teeth.
Pacman frogs and the American bullfrog are known to bite if they are stressed, handled roughly, or just feeling rather grumpy. Of course, these frogs are quite formidable on their own because they have huge mouths.
Most frogs though are too small to bite hard and will do no damage whatsoever.
Slimy Skin Coating
Frogs don’t drink water, instead, they absorb moisture through their skin. They can also breathe through their skin, though they have lungs to breathe air when they need to.
A frog’s skin is a remarkable organ and it needs to stay damp to prevent it from drying out. This is accomplished by secreting a slimy coating all over their skin. This coating protects them from dehydration, it has antibacterial and antifungal properties as well.
Another benefit of this skin is the toxins it produces. When predators taste the slimy coated skin, they often release the frog. When some predators—especially dogs and cats—muscle their way past the bad taste, they can end up wishing they hadn’t.
Frogs can make some predators very ill if they consume them. While this defense doesn’t do much for the eaten frog, the experience sticks with the predator. They will then stay away from other frogs and fewer of these amphibians are eaten.
According to the Florida Wildlife Extension, the river frog will go limp when handled and leave behind a strong odor on anything that touches it. Frogs use their skin as much as they can.
Poison Dart Frogs Take This To The Extreme
Some of the most dangerous animals in the Amazon Rainforest aren’t venomous snakes, stealthy jaguars, or toothy caimans, but tiny little frogs. The aptly named poison dart frog secrets toxins so dangerous that a single touch can put a full-grown human in the ground.
Granted, the skin slime still needs to get into the body to be so dangerous. But if you have a tiny cut on your hand, or you touch your mouth, nose, or eyes before neutralizing the toxin, then your health could be in serious trouble.
Nearly everything in the Amazonian jungles knows to leave these tiny, colorful frogs alone.
Bright Colors Scare Predators Away
Many animals try to blend into the background. They don’t want to be seen. Camouflage in the natural world is a great way to stay undetected, whether the animal is a predator or prey.
Then there are brightly colored animals that flaunt their radiant colorations. Most of the time bright colors are a warning sign to leave that bug, animal, or frog alone. Bright colors in nature tend to advertise some type of chemical defense.
Think about wasps, coral snakes, the blue-ringed octopus, and of course the tiny frogs we just discussed. Exaggerated colors tell predators that they need to think twice and maybe three times before trying to eat it.
Frogs Can Appear Bigger
Some frogs will inhale a bunch of air and puff out their bodies when confronted by predators. This makes them look bigger than they really are. If a small predator sees this bluff, they may move on to smaller, easier-to-handle prey.
Sending Out An SOS
Frogs can screech, scream, or otherwise make alarming noises when approached or captured by predators. This sudden loud cry may frighten the predator into letting the frog go.
In a fight for survival, anything goes. If screaming like a wild fan at a rock show gives the frog another chance at life, you know it’s going to take it.
When you hear that scream in the lonely night, it’s probably a frog trying to get away. Probably. Just don’t go anywhere near that creepy cemetery over there.
Playing Hide And Don’t Seek
Finally, frogs will hide to get away from predators. Have you ever walked along a pond, small lake, or other body of water and heard a plop followed by small ripples along the surface? That was the frog you didn’t see heading into the safety of the water.
Jumping into the water, or hiding in a small hole is one of the most utilized defense mechanisms a frog can employ. Once they get into the water, they will hide away in the mud, under leaves, or in another shelter.
Frogs will definitely hide and hope that nothing comes looking for them. In the water, it’s the best defense they have because they blend into the surroundings and are excellent swimmers.
Learn more about places where frogs live, sleep, and hibernate.
8 Natural Predators That Eat Frogs
While these defenses may help keep some frogs off the dinner plate, there are plenty more that end up in the bellies of these following predators.
1. Snakes Swallow Frogs
Snakes don’t have a problem taking on little frogs. They will inject them with venom, or squeeze the life out of frogs before swallowing them whole.
The skin toxins and even the urination doesn’t seem to phase most snakes when they start feeling like having frog legs for dinner.
Snakes don’t have taste buds as humans do, nor do they have as many. Some snakes have a few sensory organs on the roof of their mouth, but they don’t taste the same way as we can. That’s a benefit when you have to eat things that are furry or slimy.
There’s even a snake that has built up a tolerance for poison dart frogs. The fire-bellied snake is the only predator of these tiny frogs! It’s called fire-bellied not because of severe intestinal distress from eating Taco Bell or poison dart frogs, but because of the bright red scales on the underside.
2. Turtles Have A Taste For Frog Meat
Larger turtles such as snapping turtles, and alligator snappers will eat frogs. These big-shelled reptiles are ambush predators.
They lay in wait at the bottom of the lake or pond, and when an unsuspecting frog swims by, the turtle darts its head out and “snaps” down on the frog. The turtle then either swallows the frog whole or bites chunks out of it until the meal is finished.
Many other species of aquatic turtles will eat frog eggs and the tadpoles that hatch. Tadpoles don’t have many defenses at their disposal. They are slow, clumsy swimmers, and have no teeth to fight back, so they make an easy meal for pond sliders, softshell turtles, and more.
3. Fish Feed On Frogs
Maybe you like to fish and spend weekends on the boat skimming across smooth waters. Have you ever seen frog-shaped lures when shopping for fishing tackle?
That’s because large, predatory fish such as bass and pike like to feed on frogs. Other fish that regularly gobble up frogs include catfish, walleye, snook, and even large, yellow perch.
Fish will swim after and snap up a frog straight out of the water. Then they swallow it whole. There’s not much a frog can do unless it’s able to swim into a tiny hole or escape the water before the fish clamps its big mouth over it.
4. Birds Of A Feather, Eat Frogs Together!
There are so many birds that will readily eat frogs, it’s hard to list them all. Maybe you’ve seen the large, majestic blue heron patiently waiting on the water’s bank. It’s waiting for a fish, frog, or anything else it can snatch in that dagger-like beak.
Storks, egrets, and cranes will all peck a frog out of the water, or straight off a lilypad if it can get to it. Once the frog is in the beak of the bird, it will either clamp down on it or shake it rather roughly so the frog is easier to swallow.
They don’t want to get a frog stuck in their throat!
Other birds such as geese, ducks, gulls, crows, loons, and kingfishers all consume frogs when these amphibians are unlucky enough to be around. The skin toxins don’t bother these birds so they have nothing to worry about.
5. Lizards Like To Eat Frogs
Most lizards don’t bother frogs because they don’t get large enough to eat them. Then there are some frogs that actually turn the tables and eat lizards. Remember the American Bullfrog? They’ll eat anything they can stuff into their mouth.
Larger lizards won’t pass up a feast of frogs though. Monitor lizards, bearded dragons, and sometimes iguanas will feed on frogs if they are considerably larger than the frog.
Most lizards are opportunistic feeders. Take the iguana, for instance, it’s mostly a vegetarian, but in the wild, they won’t pass up the opportunity to eat a nearly helpless frog.
6. Small Mammals Snack On Frogs
Many small mammals such as skunks, foxes, raccoons, and weasels feed on frogs. While the slimy skin can make your house cat or perky pooch sick from eating a frog, these other mammals have built up a tolerance to these chemicals.
Skunks, foxes, raccoons, and others are constantly dining on small, wild animals. They are used to the frogs’ defenses and have built up ways to combat the chemical warfare frogs can sometimes wage.
7. Gators Will Grab Frogs And Eat Them
A full-grown alligator probably won’t waste energy chasing down a tiny frog, unless it’s a big, bloated, beefy, bullfrog. Most baby and juvenile alligators will eat plenty of frogs.
These meals are small enough for little gators to gobble down. Alligators clamp down on frogs with their sharp teeth so the slippery-skinned amphibian isn’t able to get away. Then it either drowns the frog or bites it a few times then swallows it whole.
8. Humans Have Frogs For Dinner
Well, more accurately, frog legs. Frog legs have been, and still are a staple in many countries, including France, Vietnam, Spain, Portugal, and Indonesia.
Even here in America, you can find several places that serve frog legs on their menu, especially in some southern states.
Take Louisiana for instance, there’s a small town in the southern reaches of the bayou state called Rayne. Every year—for the past 50 years—this small town has a Frog Festival.
Here the self-professed “Frog Capital of the World” has a large assortment of vendors that cook up frog legs. There’s a parade, an eating contest, and much more. If you’re interested, go make a trip.
Nearby are other places of interest, Breaux Bridge, the crawfish capital of the world, and Crowley, the rice capital of the world.
You can even order this food online, with options like the 2-pound Sea Best Retail Box Frog Legs.
Wait, Aren’t Frogs Toxic?
You may be wondering this as we went over how frogs used skin slime and other defenses to protect themselves. It’s just the skin. When frogs are processed for food they are skinned only the hind legs are utilized.
If the skin remains on the frog legs, it has to be cleaned properly, so it’s usually just removed. The hind legs are about the only edible part of the frog as well.
The taste has been described as similar to chicken and fish. Others say it has a “marshy” flavor, but that can be neutralized by soaking them in buttermilk or some other marinade before cooking.
Finishing Up With Frog Predators
Frogs are slippery to seize, but several predators know how to handle them. Snakes and lizards, birds, fish, mammals, turtles, alligators, and humans all regularly eat frogs.
While frogs do have a few defenses at their disposal, hiding and running away is usually the most effective way to elude becoming a menu item.
If you find that the frogs in your area are particularly loud at night, check out our article on the 10 reasons why frogs croak at night.
Until next time, friends!
Patocka, Jiri, Kräuff Schwanhaeuser Wulff, and M. M. Palomeque. “Dart poison frogs and their toxins.” ASA Newslett (1999): 99-5.
Williams, Craig R., et al. “Antipredator mechanisms of Australian frogs.” Journal of Herpetology (2000): 431-443.
Toledo, Luís Felipe, and Célio FB Haddad. “Colors and some morphological traits as defensive mechanisms in anurans.” International Journal of Zoology 2009 (2009).
Boelter, Ruben A., et al. “Invasive bullfrogs as predators in a Neotropical assemblage: What frog species do they eat?.” Animal Biology 62.4 (2012): 397-408.
Raaymakers, Constantijn, et al. “Antimicrobial peptides in frog poisons constitute a molecular toxin delivery system against predators.” Nature communications 8.1 (2017): 1-8.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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