- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2007

There hasn’t been this much fuss since Frankenfish: 10,000 greedy, ill-mannered frogs are now vexing the city of San Francisco.

But these are not just any frogs. These are feisty African clawed frogs, as big as a brick and armed with barbs on their hind feet. The croakers mysteriously took up residence in Golden Gate Park’s delicate Lily Pond four years ago and, well, froggy’s been a-courting ever since.

However, it’s an animal rights activist who insists that the pond be rescued from its frog plague.

“We’ve got to drain that pond, euthanize those frogs, the tadpoles, the eggs. These things are dangerous and aggressive. They carry a fungus which kills other frogs,” said Eric Mills of Action for Animals, an Oakland, Calif.-based animal-protection group.

Maryland fish and game officials emptied a pond in Crofton after nonnative northern snakehead fish — aka Frankenfish — were found lurking there in 2002, inspiring a nationwide dialogue about the threat of invasive species, not to mention a B-grade horror movie.

“Can you believe it? Here I am, the animal rights guy, proposing we kill 10,000 frogs. This is a simple problem. It would take two days to fix, and I have 120 volunteers ready,” Mr. Mills said. “It’s got to be done, but the bureaucrats are in the way.”

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office declined to comment yesterday, as did the city Commission of Animal Control and Welfare and the Recreation and Park Department.

Meanwhile, the frogs — deemed “toad warriors” in the local press — have eaten every turtle and fish in the pond and are now eating one another. They are formidable jumpers. Mr. Mills and a coterie of former game wardens and biologists fear the frogs will migrate to other waterways, rubbing out local species and spreading Chytridiomycosis, a fungus-borne infection fatal to amphibians. It already has taken a worrisome toll on the world’s frog population.

Mr. Mills speculates that the frogs were once set free in the pond by some well-meaning but clueless researcher as an act of kindness. African clawed frogs were used throughout the 1950s and ‘60s in pregnancy testing and now play a significant role in stem-cell research.

“Maybe some heron dropped the first one in the water. Nobody really knows,” Mr. Mills said. “What matters is that our officials have backed off. This is in a city which legislated to save two cypress trees as a habitat for nonnative parrots on Telegraph Hill last week. Now they need to save the pond from the frogs.”

Park workers managed to trap some frogs using nets baited with chicken. The local animal-welfare commission voted to ask the city for frog-management funds. Draining the pond has become a political matter, however, because state game officials once poisoned invasive pike — along with every other fish — in Lake Davis to the northeast, to the chagrin of fishermen and environmental advocates.

“So now everybody’s pretty skittish,” Mr. Mills said. “I thought we were a green city. I thought we’re all supposed to think globally and act locally. Nobody here is doing that. I’m just one old cranky guy in Oakland trying to prevent serious biological fallout. Maybe we should just bring in a crocodile. That’s a natural way to control frogs.”

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