Back to Nature (Published on - July 12, 2007)
Tree frogs of Florida
Photo by Rick Tremmel
The Cuban tree frog has extra large toepads and distinctive warts on its skin.
The Dalai Lama sat in the cool shade while calmly answering the rather dreary questions of an interviewer.

Cameras panned the serene courtyard. A single fly buzzed in and out of view. The Dalai Lama swatted.

Again and again the fly made itself a nuisance, finally landing upon the Dalai Lama’s face and then his hand. With one quick smack the fly was to bother no other man.

The interviewer, obviously taken aback by this sudden action abruptly asked, “I thought you didn’t believe in killing anything, yet you just killed that fly?”

The Dalai Lama smiled gently and answered, “You’re correct. I do not believe in killing, but also I am not stupid.” He chuckled.

If our properties become overrun with

vermin, mosquitoes, snakes, wasps, ants and so on, it may be necessary to take action to balance that imbalance. Sometimes it’s the only smart solution.

Consider the massive amounts of unnatural nutrients, fertilizers, insecticides and non-native plantings that the environment is subjected to on a daily basis. It’s not complicated to understand how our environment can’t keep up with renewing itself at the rate of destruction human inhabitants place upon it.

Our planet has shrunk. Bear in mind trade practices. We have fresh produce entering Florida from all over the world.

Importers are consistently bringing in non-native species that have few natural enemies once they have escaped. The Cuban tree frog belongs in this category. Watching these characters climb up the patio doors or hide upon the ledge on the front porch, you’d think they are just the cutest things.

They are, but beneath those big black eyes, they are also menaces. They are aggressive invaders pushing out Florida’s native frogs.

In a report, Steve Johnson of the University of Florida writes, “North Florida residents accustomed to tiny tree frogs may feel jumpy – a giant Cuban species has colonized half the state and is moving north. The Cuban tree frog may threaten its native counterparts.”

The amphibians have already become a nuisance to homeowners and utilities workers. Johnson is more concerned about the frogs becoming established in natural areas.

Early research suggests they may eliminate native tree frogs by competing with them for food and shelter or by simply devouring them. In one wooded area, Johnson set up PVC pipe “homes” to attract tree frogs for study. He found 130 Cuban tree frogs and no natives.

The University of Florida’s Wildlife Extension offices offers suggestions for what you can do to eradicate Cuban Tree Frogs from your gardens and homes: “Due to the destructive effects Cuban tree frogs have on native species of amphibians and reptiles, many biologists recommend that Cuban tree frogs 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 tree frog before euthanizing it.

A humane method for euthanizing amphibians: Purchase a small tube of benzocaine ointment, which is used in humans as a pain-killer for toothaches.

There are several well-advertised brands as well as much less expensive store brands (generic brands). Simply take a strip of ointment about 1-inch long (perhaps more for larger frogs) and spread it down the midline of the neck and back of each frog.

In five to 10 minutes the animal will be groggy; in 15 to 20 minutes it should be unconscious, and in about 30 to 40 minutes it will be close to dead or dead.

At this point, put the frog in a plastic container and freeze it for three days. Why? Because we want to ensure that the frog dies – we don’t want a heavily drugged frog to be buried and later wake up two feet underground. That would not be humane.

After three days, dispose of the carcass by burying it deep enough so that a pet or wild animal will not dig it up, or place it in a plastic bag and put it in the trash.

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 tree frog 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 tree frog 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 tree frog) can irritate the skin and eyes of some people.

These recommendations may seem extreme and certainly unpleasant. Most people would rather not kill anything. It will be necessary for Florida residents to band together taking drastic measures if we are to save native Florida frogs from the invasion of the Cuban tree frog. You can help protect our natural, native species. Play it smart ... back to nature.

Karen can be reached at

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