Cannibalistic Tree Frogs Spread to Another State

Invasive Cuban tree frogs have the charming habit of eating native frogs and other wildlife
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2024 1:30 PM CST
Cannibalistic Tree Frogs Spread to Another State
Cuban tree frogs are native to Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Cayman Islands.   (Brad Glorioso/U.S. Geological Survey via AP)

They're big (at least for tree frogs), they're cannibalistic, and their grating croaks can be heard all night long. What's not to love about the invasive species hopping into Georgia? Cuban tree frogs are already a menace in Florida, and USA Today reports that the Peach State is next. And while they are native to Cuba and other fair-weather Caribbean islands, climate change has allowed them to migrate even further north, with sightings as far up as Vermont. "They are what's called a 'weedy species,'" researcher Alex Baecher previously told Florida Today (meaning that they crowd out native species like weeds in flower patches). "We know that they will consume just about anything that fits through their mouths."

Smaller tree frogs (and lizards) easily fit inside those mouths, making their cannibalistic appetites a danger to wildlife typical to an area. Baecher published a paper last year in the Journal of Animal Ecology looking at how other species have adapted to Cuban tree frogs moving in, and while some have learned to relocate their colonies up and down trees to avoid their neighbors vacuuming them up, they might not be adapting fast enough. Demolishing the native frog population runs up the food chain, affecting native birds and larger animals. Biologist Daniel Sollenberger tells the Augusta Chronicle that the frogs were likely introduced to Georgia accidentally (they likely snuck over to Louisiana on Florida palm trees delivered to a zoo).

Once the frogs (which can grow to the size of a human hand) establish residence, they're mostly looking for a little water to thrive, which could be as simple as standing water in a yard. Sollenberger says Georgians shouldn't hesitate to kill Cuban tree frogs once they move in—he recommends slipping Orajel on their backs to put them to sleep, then freezing them for 24 hours. While that may sound cruel, local wildlife aren't the only ones suffering from the invasive frogs. "I have had people call that are deathly afraid," says Sally Scalera of University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences. "They're ugly and they will keep you up at night. Nothing's worse than having three or four of them singing through the night, because they're loud." (Florida's new invasive nightmare? Green anacondas.)

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