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The Cuban Treefrog by Richard Bartlett on 2019-12-09 00:59:00


Often brown, the Cuban treefrog may change colors in only a few minutes.

Let’s talk Cuban Treefrogs, Osteopilus septentrionalis. These interesting frogs are not only now a very real part of Florida’s unnatural history, but have been for close to 80 years now. And no matter your outlook on their presence, you might as well face the fact that unless Mother Nature herself takes a hand, this frog is here to stay.

The Cuban treefrog is a member of the bony-headed treefrog group. It was introduced to the Florida Keys, probably inadvertently in commerce, in the 1920s. It thrived in its new home but its presence was basically ignored. By the early 1950s the frog populations had outgrown their insular home and had become well established on the southern peninsula. This fact was commented on by herpetologist-researcher, Al Schwartz. By 1958, when I moved to FL comments were being made about the voracious appetite of the Cuban treefrog and laments were heard that it would out compete (it can do so) and eat all of our native hylid frogs (at a 5.5” body length adult females would certainly be capable of eating most native species) and the demise of our natives within the growing range of the Cuban was imminent—totally and completely. But here we are, nearly three quarters of a century later, and this disappearance still hasn’t happened. Populations of native hylids may be somewhat reduced here and there, and we may have some fat Cuban treefrogs, but I can still go to the Everglades or Lake Okeechobee or almost anywhere else and still hear vibrant choruses of green treefrogs, squirrel treefrogs, and when within their ranges and habitats, of pine woods and barking treefrogs. Compare the statistics with habitat reduction or loss caused by humans and the “damage” caused by Cuban treefrogs is negligible. In fact, it is in disturbed areas that Cuban treefrogs seem most abundant.

Researchers at the Univ. of Florida have this to say about Cuban Treefrogs:

Cuban Treefrogs eat at least five different species of native frogs, not to mention the occasional lizard or small snake, and their tadpoles compete with native tadpoles for space and food. Cuban Treefrogs are common in urban areas, where they hang out near lights on the walls of houses and catch insects. They often poop on walls and windows (leaving ugly stains), take over birdhouses, and lay eggs in fish ponds and bird baths. Sometimes Cuban Treefrogs even find their way into homes, hanging out in toilets and clogging sink drains. Cuban treefrogs grow very large, and are known to cause costly power outages by short-circuiting utility switches. Our native treefrogs are all much smaller, and aren't known to cause such utility problems.

In other words, the Cuban treefrog is doing exactly what every other treefrog, every other anuran for that matter, does to exist. Asking the same question posed by Rob Macinnis, how long is a species required to live here to be granted the same consideration as a native taxon?

Please understand that I am not even suggesting how you should treat this species if you live in their ever-expanding range. We have them in our yard where they coexist with several other frog taxa. Here they are welcome. Continue Reading "The Cuban Treefrog "

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