What the heck is a herpetologist? Probably not what you think.
When Elke Wind tells people that she’s a herpetologist she often gets suspicious looks until she explains that she studies reptiles and amphibians. She’s been in the field for more than 15 years and completed her Masters in the 1990s at the University of British Columbia. She states in an e-mail interview that she may have become a bat or a moose biologist if the funding hadn’t come in so fast for a supervisor in the amphibian field, but that the money proved to have good timing in more ways than one, as “…the interest in amphibians was starting to increase at that time so that I was able to stay with it and become a specialist in that field.”
Wind is now a self-employed amphibian biologist who runs E. Wind Consulting. She works on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland and is an instructor at BC Wildlife Federation education programs, such as the Wetlandkeepers Courses, which run throughout the province, as well as the week-long Wetlands Institute running from July 9-15 along the Sea to Sky Highway this summer.
The Bullfrog in B.C.: An Introduced Species
The B.C. Frogwatch Program states that the Bullfrog is not native to British Columbia. It was introduced in the 1930s and 40s to provide a source of meat for the French and Asian dish frog legs. The Bullfrog has since spread over the Lower Mainland, the southern part of Vancouver Island, and the South Okanagan–to the detriment of native frog species.
The Bullfrog is large, and spends one to two years as a tadpole, which is a great deal longer than many other frog species, and requires a wetland with permanent water. Bullfrogs eat a variety of things–including ducklings–but it is their taste for other frogs that is a problem, in particular native species such as the Red-legged Frog and the Pacific Chorus Frog. Once the Bullfrog moves in, the populations of these native species decline, as they make perfect snacks for the larger invader and it is harder for native species tadpoles to compete with the Bullfrog tadpoles.
How Can WE Save the Frogs?
There are some things that we can do to both prevent the spread of Bullfrogs and enhance habitat for native species – but taking on the Bullfrog is not one of them as it is here to stay.
- Leave all frogs and tadpoles be! Do not transport Bullfrogs (or any kind of frog) from pond to pond, take tadpoles home, or harm Bullfrogs. It is illegal to disturb wildlife in B.C. in any way!
- Never disturb egg masses or destroy them (some people think they are destroying Bullfrog eggs when they are actually destroying the eggs of native species).
- Create attractive water environments with insects and shelter for frogs in your garden to attract native species.
- Reduce or eliminate use of chemicals. Frogs are very sensitive.
- Support competition-free areas–Help native species by creating wetlands that dry up in the summer, after these species have changed from tadpoles to frogs. Bullfrogs cannot live in these environments as they need a permanent water source as they are tadpoles for one to two years.