An Invasive Threat
The invasive Cuban treefrog is a nuisance to Florida homeowners, and the amphibian threatens Florida's native treefrog populations.
The Cuban treefrog, Osteopilus septentrionalis, is native to Cuba, the Cayman Islands, and the Bahamas. It is an introduced species in Florida, established in South Florida north to Cedar Key and Jacksonville (as of 2010).
Cuban treefrogs are the largest treefrog found in Florida and can grow to more than 6 inches in length. Other features include:
- Large "bug-eyed" eyes
- Large toepads — significantly larger than native treefrogs
- Rough or warty skin
- Sometimes have wavy patterns or blotches on their back
- Various skin colors — usually creamy white to light brown, but can also be green, gray, yellow, or a combination of colors.
- Male Cuban treefrogs have a distinct call that sounds like a squeaking door, often described as a "snoring rasp"
Cuban treefrogs secrete an irritating substance, so you should not touch the animals with your bare hands.
Cuban treefrogs can be found in natural, suburban, agricultural, and urban settings.
Negative Impact of Native Species
In natural and urban settings, Cuban treefrogs eat Florida's native treefrogs, as well as lizards and many invertebrates.
Cuban treefrogs seem to be responsible for declines of some native treefrog species. Further research will give a better understanding of how Cuban treefrogs affect Florida's ecology.
Cuban treefrogs thrive in human-modified areas and populations can be dense enough to be a nuisance. These treefrogs often enter homes through doors, windows, and plumbing.
Home problems involving Cuban treefrogs include:
- Clogged drains
- Egg masses in pools and decorative ponds and subsequent increase of Cuban treefrogs around the home
- Occupation of nesting boxes meant for birds
- Burning and irritation of eyes and nose from coming into contact with Cuban treefrogs' skin
- Power interruptions due to Cuban treefrogs getting into transformers and electrical switches and causing short circuits
You can help manage this invasive species in and around your yard. Because Cuban treefrogs eat native frogs and other wildlife, it is important to reduce their negative impacts.
Reporting Cuban Treefrogs
If you find a Cuban treefrog, e-mail Dr. Steve A. Johnson of the University of Florida. In your e-mail include:
- The county where you saw the frog
- A street address of the location for mapping purposes
- A digital photograph of the frog (when possible) for identification
Capture & Humane Euthanization
Because of the threat they pose to native treefrogs and the problems they cause for people, our recommendation is to capture and humanely euthanize Cuban treefrogs you encounter.
You can also reduce Cuban treefrog impacts by eliminating their eggs and potential breeding sites.
Be positive about the frog's identification before euthanizing what you believe to be a Cuban treefrog. For help with identifying treefrogs, e-mail Dr. Steve A. Johnson or contact your local Extension agent.
Catching Cuban Treefrogs by Hand
You can capture Cuban treefrogs by simply grabbing them from their perch sites. Be sure to wear rubber gloves or use a plastic grocery bag as a glove. Approach the frog and grasp it firmly in a continuous, swift movement.
Collecting Frogs in Pipes
You can also attract the frogs to hiding places where they can be easily captured and removed.
Place 3-foot long segments of 1½-inch diameter PVC pipe in the ground around your home and garden. After a few days or weeks frogs will show up in the pipes.
To remove a frog from a pipe, pull the pipe out of the ground and place a clear plastic bag over one end. Insert a broom handle or other "plunger" device in the other end to scare the frog into the bag.
Release native treefrogs back into the pipe.
Humanely Euthanizing Cuban Treefrogs
Remember to use gloves when touching the frog.
After positively identifying a frog as a Cuban treefrog, humanely euthanize by applying benzocaine ointment — a numbing agent used to treat skin pain and itching — to the frog's back. Name brand and generic products are available over-the-counter in tubes or sprays.
After the ointment is applied, put the frog in a sealable plastic bag for 15-20 minutes to let the benzocaine render the frog unconscious.
Keeping the frog in the bag, place it in the freezer overnight then throw it away in the trash. Do not throw live frogs in the trash.
Adapted and excerpted from:
S. Johnson, The Cuban Treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) in Florida (WEC218), Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation (05/2010).