Alert! Take your frog out of the freezer!
Earlier this month, the Colorado Division of Wildlife suggested that one of the best ways to deal with frogs not native to Colorado is to euthanize them by putting them alongside your frozen peas and corndogs. “It might sound cruel, but the best thing to do with unwanted pet frogs, salamanders, baby alligators, goldfish, and the like -- is to freeze them,” Tina Jackson, a herptile specialist for the division, said in a press release. “As they cool down they enter into a hibernation sleep state and then pass away.”
To be fair, Jackson also suggested that people who have unwanted slimy creatures give them to someone who will responsibly take care of them (presumably by NOT putting them in the freezer), return them to where they were purchased, or donate them to a local natural history museum, aquarium or zoo. (For the entire press release, click the MORE link below.)
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Turns out the advice was all wet.
Last Friday (May 9), the division apologized after the American Veterinarian Medical Association claimed that freezer burn isn’t a preferred or humane way to euthanize reptiles and amphibians. (Frozen frog cubes don’t taste like chicken!)
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The entire contents of the DOW press release:
DON'T PUT THAT PET FROG IN LOCAL POND
This is a banner year for amphibians and reptiles in Colorado. It's been declared "The Year of the Frog," and the Western Painted Turtle was proclaimed official state reptile.
But in spite of this great publicity, Colorado's amphibians and reptiles face a perilous future fraught with environmental stumbling blocks.
One of the biggest threats to Colorado's frogs comes from members of its own kind. Every year biologists find more evidence of non-native frogs replacing Colorado's native frogs.
The non-natives don't get here on their own, but are set free by well intending people who originally bought them in a pet store, garden shop, or brought them home from a school project. When school ends, many students unwittingly think the best thing to do with the left over frogs from biology class is let them go in local ponds.
Tina Jackson is a herptile specialist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW). She offers the following alternatives. Give them to someone who will responsibly take care of them, return them to where they were purchased, or donate them to a local natural history museum, aquarium, or zoo. The other choice is to humanely euthanize them.
"It might sound cruel, but the best thing to do with unwanted pet frogs, salamanders, baby alligators, goldfish, and the like -- is to freeze them," said Jackson. "As they cool down they enter into a hibernation sleep state and then pass away."
Among the reasons experts don't want them released into the wild is that non-native reptiles and amphibians can introduce potentially harmful diseases that kill the local species. There are also problems with the non-natives competing with native herptiles, or in some cases, cross breeding and degrading the resident population's gene pool.
One the other side of the coin, Jackson also warns that capturing native herptiles from the wild is also a concern. "Kids playing in local ponds and wetlands are naturally curious, and they want to make pets from the critters they capture," she said.
She warns there are three things to keep in mind when removing critters from the wild. They might carry diseases that could spread to humans. Depending on the critter, it might be a protected species. And, the animal must be cared for properly or it will die.
The first thing parents should teach their kids is that removing animals from the wild can be dangerous. Jackson cautions that some reptiles can carry diseases that are transmissible to humans. Improper handling can lead to infections and illness.
The second thing people should be aware of is which species are -- and are not -- legal to take from the wild. There are a few native herptiles that can be taken from the wild, but there are limits. A complete list is available on the DOW's web site at http://wildlife.state.co.us/RulesRegs/SpecialLicenses/.
Also, people should be aware that most of these animals have very specific needs and requirements to survive and stay healthy. "My advice is do some thorough research before acquiring any animals for captive possession to make sure you're ready, willing, and able to properly care for them," she said.
Native herptiles are illegal to buy or sell, but there are many non-natives from tropical and subtropical regions, that are bred and sold as pets in Colorado. In general, these species are not likely to establish themselves.
Some herptiles are able to establish themselves. One example of a non-native species that has gotten out of control in Colorado is the bullfrog. Bullfrogs are originally from the eastern and central parts of North America. Bullfrogs cause problems by competing with, and eating, native amphibians.
Bullfrogs were introduced to Colorado in the early 1900s. Since then, the numbers of the native leopard frogs and the northern cricket frogs have declined to the point that the state has included them on the threatened and endangered list as "species of special concern."
Jackson listed a couple examples of locations where there are problems from non-natives:
Bullfrogs and Red-eared slider turtles (common pet store turtles) have been released and are now breeding and displacing the native leopard frogs and painted turtles in most urban ponds along the Front Range.
Bullfrogs have been reported in recent years in the San Luis Valley but there have been no reports as of yet of bullfrogs in the Durango or Cortez areas.
Yellow Mud Turtles have been found in the local botanical gardens in Grand Junction. The species is native to Eastern Colorado but was probably picked up by someone and transported to the west slope.
Jackson wants people to understand and respect reptiles and amphibians as an important component of our natural environment. "Treat them with the same respect as you would the more charismatic animals, like birds and mammals," she said. "Leave them in their natural habitats, where they belong, and do what you can to protect those habitats by not release non-natives."
There are over 4,000 species of frogs in the world but only six are native to Colorado. Western Chorus Frogs and the Northern Leopard Frogs were once abundant statewide. The Wood Frog is a mountain dweller. Northern Cricket Frogs and Plains Leopard Frogs are native to eastern Colorado. Canyon Tree Frogs are native to the West Slope.
Tadpoles breathe through gills. Adult frogs breathe through lungs but also absorb oxygen through their skin.
Because frogs absorb oxygen and other elements through their skin, they are extremely vulnerable to pollution.
Frogs are "cold-blooded," meaning their body temperature is governed by the temperature of their environment rather than by heat generated by metabolism.
Frogs hibernate in winter under logs, beneath leaf litter, or in burrows at the bottom of ponds.
Wood frogs and western chorus frogs can tolerate being frozen for short periods of time.
For more information about the amphibians and reptiles in Colorado, go to: http://wildlife.state.co.us/NR/rdonlyres/DE231396-387D-4183-A191-1ED091126621/0/COHerpAtlas4_2008.pdf.
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