The Cuban Treefrog crisis in my back yard

Frog North Florida species unknown

I recently wrote about the different creatures in our back yard. That column primarily dealt with nocturnal species. One creature in particular stood out—a frog. This frog was different than others I was accustomed to seeing. A crisis of sorts soon became evident—a Cuban Treefrog crisis—right in our back yard.

I call it a crisis because I knew what we would need to do if the frog was a Cuban Treefrog. Use of the term ‘we’ there is an inside joke. My husband knows that ‘we’ in such situations usually means it’s a job for him.

It was necessary to call in an expert to verify the frog’s species. An associate professor at the University of Florida in the Dept. of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation verified the image snapped of said frog. His email began, “That is a Cuban Treefrog.”

The frog was cute and nonaggressive. S/he happily gobbled up bugs, doing humans a favor. Removing it from our back yard habitat so carefully maintained to benefit wildlife would be hard. For me, anyway.

There’s a fact sheet posted by Dr. Steve A. Johnson at the University of Florida. It’s possible residents in the southeastern portion of Jacksonville could see these frogs and have no idea they aren’t native to the area. Please read the whole fact sheet so that native frogs aren’t confused with introduced frogs.

To deal with the Cuban treefrog in our back yard, we used a spray cannister containing 20 percent Benzocaine to immobilize the creature. My husband then dispatched the frog to ‘Frog-halla’ in a manner similar to that used in frog-gigging. We disposed of it by placing it into a coffee tin and then putting it into the garbage cart. Experts recommend immobilizing these frogs by cooling them down and then freezing them, but we didn’t have any dry ice and I simply cannot place a creature like that into my freezer even if it is triple-bagged.

It was hard to kill one of nature’s creatures. For me, the crisis was one of conscience I told the professor I contacted that I’d spent a large portion of my time protecting wildlife and special natural habitats. In Florida we arranged our back yard to accommodate a number of creatures. That the Cuban Treefrog found this environment appealing is no surprise—s/he had everything necessary to flourish here, including infrequent cold spells in winters that, compared to upstate Carolina where I grew up, are not winters at all. Jacksonville is abundant with water—the land of seven bridges over the mighty St. John’s River provides a welcome mat for many types of flora and fauna as well as fungi and such.

Our world is mobile now, and invasive species can hitch a quick ride in a number of ways. Ornamental plants, cargo ships, boat trailers, and such provide convenient transportation for different plants and animals whose presence in a local ecosystem can be harmful.

If you like to watch wildlife and share that with your children as I did, remember to not let children pick up wild creatures. These creatures aren’t suitable pets and they are best, as I used to tell my children, observed with eyes, not hands. (Article continues after photo.)

Moon in night sky N FL
Moon in the night sky as seen in North Florida. (Photo: Indie Art South)

I sincerely hope the Cuban Treefrog who took up residence out back didn’t have a mate. They reproduce prolifically, and as a precaution, although we change the water out every day, we’re emptying the bird bath each evening. We rarely see any type of frog in our pool, probably because of the chlorine and other chemicals necessary to keep it clean.

The University of Florida also maintains Web pages about wildlife; the pages are useful for those of us interested in conservation.

When I explained to my husband, I couldn’t kill the frog and asked him to do the deed, I said, “I just can’t kill something that looks at me so innocently. He’s just too cute.”

My husband, in his characteristic practical way, responded, “Ted Bundy was a handsome man.”

(Kay B. Day/Aug. 31, 2020)

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