Friday, November 2, 2007

Coqui Frog Population Multiplies on Big Island: 30,000 per acre

Coqui Frog Population Multiplies

Coqui Frog Population Multiplies

By Tammy Mori

It's being called the "plague" on the Big Island.

Experts say there are as many as 30,000 coqui frogs per acre in the East Hawaii region.

Researchers say Coqui frogs were first introduced to the Big Island in the early nineties.

But when the resources were made available to help combat the infestation, it was about ten years too late.

The coqui frogs may not sound so bad in the daytime but at night the noise from the Coqui frogs can reach 80 decibels..that's equivalent to a chainsaw about 10 feet away.

"It is out of control," says Mark McGuffie, Executive Director of the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board.

And the infestation continues to multiply.

"I don't think eradication is possible anymore. We have thousands of acres infested with Coqui frogs. An individual female will lay a clutch of anywhere from 30 to 50 eggs once every 2 weeks," states Bill Mautz, Professor of Biology at UH Hilo.

Just one male and female can cumulatively lead to 23 million frogs in less than four years.

"The longer this situation continues, the worse it's going to get," adds McGuffie.

As they grow louder, the frogs are taking a greater toll on the economy because no one wants these pests in their backyards.

A previous study shows the direct damages to property value is 22.5 million dollars for Hawaii county, and 208 million for the state.

"Our plea is to have federal, state and county support, private enterprise support, everyone to rally around this because it's really out of control," says McGuffie.

But for now, county, state and federal agencies are teaming up to doing everything they to get this epidemic under control.

"We spray every week, we spray three times a week," says Hans Sin, DLNR Coqui Control Coordinator.

They can use a citric acid spray or hydrated lime mixture which kills the frogs just minutes after contact.

Researchers are also testing a hot water shower-which may be less harmful to the environment.

Experts say one of the most promising methods being developed is a Coqui frog barrier which can protect a nursery or line a home owner's property

"It's some kind of fence made out of a fine mesh that the frogs have a trouble getting a grip on them by their toe pads," explains Mautz.

But as resources run short, and funding continues to get cut for many of the Big island agencies...

Experts say it will take a community effort to combat this invasive species.

"We really don't need the heightened awareness because we hear the sound, every night. It's getting people engaged in solving the problem," explains McGuffie.

There have been some success stories about neighborhoods working together and eradicating the coqui frogs, like in parts of the Kohala district.

There are various resources available to all big island residents:

Big Island Invasive Species Committee
has a citric acid matching program.
They can match up to 9 bags
(808) 933-3346

USDA sprayer loan program- free of charge
(808) 933-6955

Hawaii Island Economic Development Board
hosts workshops and also participates in the sprayer loan program
(808) 935-2180

County of Hawaii has a community grant program
(808) 961-8065

Story Updated: Nov 1, 2007 at 10:27 PM HDT