MAUI STRUGGLES TO RID NOISY FROG

By Edwin Tanji

MAKAWAO, Maui (The Maui News, Oct. 3) - The Maui Invasive Species Committee has not given up on efforts to eradicate the coqui frog from Maui, despite a report out of Honolulu that the frog is beyond control here.

The organization involving government and private agencies concerned about the spread of unwanted alien species in Maui County still is seeking to bring the small but noisy frog under control, said Teya Penniman, committee manager. One of the issues that the group is seeking to resolve is determining where the frogs have been established, she said.

A recent report out of Oahu said there are 40 or more areas on Maui where the frogs have been heard.

"That's what we have been trying to determine. We are trying to determine what is the extent of the population," Penniman said. "We want to find out how valid that number is."

Wildlife specialists with the committee know some of the areas around Maui infested by the coqui, a quarter-size frog that is native to Puerto Rico and was introduced to the islands apparently in a shipment of tropical plants from the Caribbean.

There is an approved method for controlling the frogs, involving a spray of a citric acid solution that will kill the tiny amphibians without harming the plants in which they hide.

They usually make their presence known with the call of a male, a piercing sound that measures up to 100 decibels within a few feet from the frog. A 100-decibel noise is roughly equal to the sound of a train passing or a power tool.

Penniman said the effort to identify frog-infested areas has involved workers driving to suspected sites and listening for the calls. But since only males call, and they tend to be more noisy when it's wet, "the fact that you don't hear them doesn't mean they're not there," she said.

Because the frogs have been spread by hiding in nursery-raised plants, they have been found primarily around homes that have been landscaped. But Penniman said there is a known population in Maliko Gulch, in an area in which it will be more difficult to control the population.

Still, the MISC wants to know if anyone is hearing the frogs, in a continuing effort to identify populations and take steps to eradicate them.

"If the question is: 'Is it possible to eradicate them?' The answer is, yes, it is," she said.

But it will take cooperation of all residents in an infested area to look for and capture the frogs, to spray for control and to eliminate frog habitats - removing dead leaves from plants that provide frog shelters, disposing of green waste and eliminating sources of moisture.

Penniman said the MISC is working with the state Department of Agriculture on a project to make the citric acid spray more accessible for homeowners. She said the chemical normally is sold in 50-pound bags, while a homeowner would need only a little more than a pound at a time to treat a yard.

The recommended 16 percent solution would use about 2§cups to a gallon. That solution would kill a frog on contact and can also kill eggs.

She said the committee is working on a program to repackage the powder for homeowners' use.

Anyone who has questions or suspects a coqui infestation can call the MISC at 573-6472. Information on dealing with coqui also is available online at www.hear.org/frogs/.

November 4, 2003

The Maui News: www.mauinews.com

 

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