Children take aim at an invasive species

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Joe McFadden
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
As protected and secure from external threats as a military installation can be, Hurlburt Field is still subject to a potential invasion.

The invaders in question aren't hostile terrorists, unwanted solicitors or even human, but Osteopilus septentrionalis, or the Cuban tree frog.

These warty, white amphibians with their large toepads and "bug eyes" can wreak havoc on the local ecosystem and its inhabitants. But the base's first line of defense against them will actually be in the hands of children.

Nearly 30 elementary school-age children decorated and placed two frog houses on base April 6 to monitor the frogs' progress into this part of Northwest Florida.

The frog is native to islands like Cuba, the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands, however they have been introduced across Florida. The species prey upon other tree frogs which, if left unchecked, could lead to the native frogs' endangerment.

The Cuban tree frog not only preys on other types of frogs but is drawn to electrical circuitry, which can lead to widespread power outages, said Kristal Walsh, natural/cultural resource manager of 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron.

"Most of the time here in Northwest Florida, we think of invasive species as plants but in fact, other types of animals, reptiles and amphibians are no longer exclusive to South Florida," Walsh said. "It is important especially for children to understand not to release into the wild that pet snake or frog that they have grown tired of. That is just one of the ways invasive species are introduced into our ecosystems."

To check the frog's population density on base, 1st SOCES personnel used segments of PVC pipe as houses. The children used markers to draw rainbows, frogs and their own names to add their own touch to the frog houses.

"The frogs like to sit inside the pipe where they can wait for their next meal and where they are sheltered from the weather," Walsh said. "These will be monitored both by the Natural Resources flight and by the children on a regular basis. If a Cuban tree frog is found, it will be removed and reported to the University of Florida and also other invasive species experts in the area."

While designing the houses, the children learned about the different types of frogs, including native and introduced species and their diets.

"We learned that some frogs are bad and some are good," said Jas Cathey, 7. "We also learned that some frogs have different dots so you can tell which is which."

Once completed, the children along with 1st SOCES personnel planted the houses near a newly-constructed stream outside the Child Development Center and a pond by the base's back gate.

According to the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the Cuban tree frog secretes mucus from their skin that can burn a person's eyes and cause allergy-like reactions in humans and pets.

If you suspect you've come across a Cuban tree frog, do not touch it, leave it alone and contact the Natural Elements flight.

"Everyone's help is needed to identify and report these species," Walsh said. "The general public can help by just being aware of their home surroundings and take time to learn about the primary invasive animals and plants that might be present in our area."

For more information about invasive species, call Walsh at 884-7916.