Osteopilus septentrionalis, commonly referred to as the Cuban treefrog, is an invasive species introduced to Florida in the early 1900s. Researchers suspect the amphibian may spread beyond Florida's borders and establish itself in states like Georgia and Hawaii. The amphibian can adapt to storms and hurricanes and make its way into new regions by attaching itself to shipments of plants.
Cuban treefrogs are native to Cuba, the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands. It is believed the treefrogs were accidentally introduced to Florida around the 1920s as cargo hitchhikers. Cuban treefrogs have been reported as far south as Key West and as far north as Cedar Key. The amphibian's lifespan is estimated at between five to 10 years. Trees and very large plants along waterways make excellent habitats for this species.
The Cuban treefrog holds the title of being the largest treefrog in the U.S. with a body length of between 1 1/2 to 5 inches. The amphibians range in color from brown to green to gray and have enormous toe pads. Some have been noted to change color to match the environment. Females tend to outgrow males and when impregnated, will lay up to 3,000 eggs in two long strings in a shallow pond, pool or ditch.
The impact of Cuban treefrogs on Florida's ecosystem has been negative. The species eats Florida's native frogs and toads as well as lizards, small snakes, spiders and other insects. The amphibians have also clogged toilets and drains, pooped on walls and windows and laid eggs in bird baths and fish ponds. Florida residents who report sightings of Cuban treefrogs in their backyards usually notice a decline in native frog population. As a result, the Cuban treefrog has been branded an invasive species, and steps are being taken to ensure it does not threaten the balance of Florida's ecosystem.
If you believe there are Cuban treefrogs in your area, report sightings to the experts at the University of Florida to aid in protecting the state's ecosystem. If you are certain you have identified a Cuban treefrog versus a native treefrog, you may humanely euthanize it. Make sure you have some benzocaine or a product containing at least 20 percent of this agent before attempting to capture the Cuban treefrog. Use a plastic bag to ensure its secretion does not come in contact with your skin, as this can cause irritation. Once you've caught the Cuban treefrog, liberally apply the benzocaine to the back or belly of the frog. The amphibian will become unconscious. Seal the plastic bag and place it in your freezer overnight. You may dispose of it the next day. According to a researcher at the University of Florida, Dr. Steve Johnson, it is illegal to release a Cuban treefrog into the Florida ecosystem.
- Florida Wildlife Extension at UF: Cuban Treefrog
- SeaWorld/Busch Gardens: Animal Bytes - Cuban Treefrog
- USGS: Cuban Treefrog (Osteopilus Septentrionalis)
- UF Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation: Invasive Cuban Treefrogs in Florida
- "Orlando Sentinel"; Scientists Ask Citizens to Report Cuban Treefrogs; November 19, 2009
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