NON-NATIVE DESTRUCTIVE INVASIVE

The Cuban Tree Frog is the largest non-native tree frog in North America (1.5 to 5″ in body length). This frog was introduced to southern Florida from the Caribbean and is spreading throughout the state (from as far north as Cedar Key on the Gulf Coast, Jacksonville on the Atlantic Coast, and the Orlando area in mid-Florida).

Identification

Cuban Tree Frogs can be highly variable in color — from pale tan/pale green without any markings to dark green or brown with an even darker color pattern on the back and legs. Sometimes they almost look white when they are inactive or cold. Cuban Tree Frogs can be up to 5″ in length — larger than native Florida tree frogs. Cuban Tree Frogs are also easy to identify by their enormous toe pads, bumpy back skin (like the skin of toads) and the fused skin on top of their heads (if you try to wiggle the skin on their foreheads it will not move like it does on other frogs).

Cuban Tree Frogs prefer places that are moist and shady — in trees, shrubs or around houses behind shutters and lights. They are commonly found near ornamental fish ponds and well-lit patios.

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Food Habits

Cuban Tree Frogs will eat almost anything smaller than them that moves — including Florida’s native frogs, toads, lizards, snakes and other Cuban Tree Frogs (they are cannibals), in addition to insects and spiders. They usually hunt at night and congregate around lighted areas where they pounce on and eat anything they think they can swallow.

Cuban Tree Frogs are considered an invasive exotic (non-native) species that threaten the biodiversity of Florida’s native ecosystems and wildlife.

Reproduction

Cuban Tree Frogs breed from May to October. The  call of the Cuban Tree Frog is variably pitched and  slightly rasping. Male frogs call in hopes of attracting  females. Cuban Tree Frogs lay eggs in any body of standing water — from a small bucket to a fish pond, even in chlorinated swimming pools.

CUBAN TREE FROG CALL

Predators

Several species of native snakes will eat Cuban Tree Frogs, including rat snakes, Black Racers, Pygmy Rattlesnakes and Garter Snakes. Owls, crows and wading birds also eat Cuban Tree Frogs.

Cuban Tree Frogs can be quit annoying to humans when large congregations of them begin calling, when they creep into peoples’ homes and when they leap and land on you unexpectedly in the dark (as they are large, have some weight to them and are cold and slimy — the person who is leapt upon often breaks out in fits and screams in terror — if you have had one of these frogs attack you, you know what I mean, it is not pleasant).

From the UF Extension Service:

“Due to the destructive effects Cuban treefrogs have on native species of amphibians and reptiles, many biologists recommend that Cuban treefrogs be euthanized/killed. That’s harsh, but true. We recommend a humane method of euthanasia for amphibians. Just make SURE the frog you have is a Cuban treefrog before euthanizing it (see the test suggested below).

CUBAN TREE FROG.

A humane method for euthanizing amphibians:

To euthanize a Cuban Treefrog, hold the frog firmly in your hand and apply a 1 inch bead of benzocaine ointment along the back of the frog. Benzocaine ointment is a topical anesthetic (a numbing agent) used to treat skin pain (e.g., from sunburn) and itching as well as toothaches and sore throats. There are a variety of name brand and generic versions that are available over-the-counter in a tube or spray. If you are able to, using a gloved finger spread the ointment out on the frog’s back. Alternatively, you could use a benzocaine spray. Once the ointment or spray is applied, place the frog in a plastic grocery bag or a sealable sandwich bag for 15-20 minutes so that the benzocaine has a chance to render the frog unconscious (be sure to seal the bag or tie it closed). After the bezocaine has anesthetized the frog, place the bag in a freezer overnight to ensure that the frog is dead and then throw it out in your trash. If you are unable to apply benzocaine to the frog, you can simply put it in a plastic bag, seal or tie the bag shut, then place it in the freezer overnight–dispose of the bag and the frog in the trash the next day. Do not throw a bagged frog into the trash without euthanizing it first. Remember, Cuban Treefrogs have a noxious skin secretion so be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after you handle the frog, even if you wear gloves or use a plastic bag.

Freezing is a humane way to kill amphibians because their bodies go into a state of torpor (metabolism slows way down) — just as they do in cold weather outside. If the cold weather is short in duration, the frogs will come out of their torpor state. However, after an extended time in freezing temperatures, the frogs die.

A good test to determine if a frog is a Cuban treefrog is to grasp the frog firmly, but gently, and try to move the skin around on the top of the frog’s head with your fingertip. The skin on the head of a Cuban treefrog is fused to the top of the skull and won’t move.

Be sure to wash your hands after handling any frog or toad. They all secrete a slimy film to protect their skin, but the secretions of some species, like the Cuban treefrog, can irritate the skin and eyes of some people.”

 Source: THE CUBAN TREE FROG (OSTEOPILUS SEPTENTRIONALIS) IN FLORIDA, STEVE A. JOHNSON

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