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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wildlife officials must leap into action

We all know the benefits of living near one of the world’s largest airports, but the disadvantages manifest themselves, too. Last week, field experts from the Long Island Department of Wildlife confirmed that a species of giant frog has moved into local waters.

The frogs, which can move from salt to fresh water, have been captured in Bellmore, Long Beach and Merrick, and one juvenile was discovered in Woodmere Pond. Officials say the predator frogs most likely came into the country and the community through cargo that landed at JFK Airport.

According to Dr. David Krause of Stony Brook University, the bad-tempered Beeizebuto, or “devil frog,” is the size of a beach ball, as tall as 16 inches and weighing up to 12 pounds. “These ceratophyrines are really aggressive, ambush predators,” Krause said. “They are round, with big mouths, and they will sit in wait and grab anything that walks by.” They can be found in the water or on land that surrounds ponds and lakes. One was found dead on the beach in Lido.

Another expert, veterinarian John Johansen, who works with reptiles at the Central Park Zoo, said that a sudden invasion of an outlier species is not unusual in these days of rapid intercontinental transportation. He pointed to the example of so-called “walking fish,” which came into the U.S. seven years ago and began moving across the country, from lake to lake and pond to pond, sometimes “walking” great distances overland.

Johansen said that the eyes of the giant frogs are about an inch in diameter. Like most amphibians, water is vital to their reproduction; males construct breeding areas alongside shorelines. The egg masses consist of several hundred eggs attached to vegetation. Development takes between 85 and 90 days.

On Long Island, the devil frog, because of its aggressive nature and powerful jaws, could pose a threat to small dogs. According to one wildlife official who declined to be identified, “If these frogs aren’t hunted down and killed, this could be a nightmare for our densely populated communities, where young kids play outside on nearly every block.”

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