GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If Cuban tree frogs have invaded your neighborhood, University of Florida experts want to know-so they’ve launched a Web page encouraging residents to report the super-sized amphibians.
By observing and removing Cuban tree frogs, residents can help protect native tree frog species, said Monica McGarrity, a biological scientist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The page, http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/citizen_sci.shtml, is one of the first attempts to recruit “citizen scientists” in control efforts, McGarrity said. It was developed by McGarrity and Steve Johnson, an assistant professor of wildlife ecology, who study the frogs at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Plant City.
“People e-mail us constantly, wanting to know what they can do about these frogs,” McGarrity said. “So we launched a pilot project to get them involved.”
Reports submitted to the page will be used to develop strategies for eliminating-or at least reducing-populations of the frogs, Johnson said.
“It really enhances our ability to monitor the spread and potential impact of Cuban tree frogs in a manner we just could not do by ourselves,” he said.
Accidentally introduced to South Florida in the early 20th century, the Caribbean frogs have spread throughout much of Florida, Johnson said. They can grow to more than six inches long and are known to eat native tree frogs. Previous studies suggest that when Cuban tree frogs become established in an area, native species disappear.
But there is hope, McGarrity says. Anecdotal evidence suggests that when Cuban tree frogs are removed, the natives return.
For residents, that means identifying, capturing and euthanizing Cuban tree frogs found near-or inside-houses and apartments. McGarrity said she realizes some people may be reluctant to approach the creatures, and that’s okay-the researchers welcome observations and photos.
However, captured Cuban tree frogs should be euthanized, because it’s illegal to release them. The page includes detailed instructions on how to humanely dispatch the pests. It also contains multiple photographs of Cuban tree frogs and native species, to ensure accurate identification.
To help users submit reports, the page contains a detailed form and instructions on how to complete it. Reports can be filed via e-mail, fax or conventional mail.
Filing reports can be educational for children, but McGarrity cautions parents that Cuban tree frogs are coated with a sticky slime that can irritate the eyes and nose. So youngsters should be instructed to avoid touching any tree frogs they encounter.
Residents of Central and South Florida may notice an upsurge in Cuban tree frog populations these days, Johnson says. He’s received e-mails from residents who believe the frogs are laying eggs in swimming pools at foreclosed homes.
“We don’t have any quantified data, but it certainly makes sense,” he said. “You’ve got a pool that’s abandoned, it’s full of water, there’s algae growing in it, and that’s almost an ideal environment for these frogs to reproduce.”
Writer: Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, email@example.com
Sources: Monica McGarrity, 813-757-2271, firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Johnson, 813-757-2273, email@example.com
In this photo released by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, researchers Steve Johnson, left, and Monica McGarrity measure a preserved Cuban tree frog specimen at UF’s Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Plant City — Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009. This month, they launched a Web site encouraging residents to report the invasive amphibians, which could aid control efforts and protect native tree frog species. (AP photo/University of Florida/IFAS/Tyler Jones)