Residents in the Anchorage area may be receiving some unwanted Christmas gifts this year in the form of non-native Pacific chorus frogs hitchhiking in Christmas trees imported from Washington state. Though the little critters are not dangerous on their own, state wildlife officials are urging locals to examine their trees and to kill any suspicious-looking amphibians immediately."These 'live ornaments' may seem like a bonus purchase, but they are outside their native range," said Tammy Davis, Invasive Species Program project leader for the Alaskan Department of Fish and Game. "While we don't suspect they will become invasive, a greater concern is the risk to our native amphibians if they are carrying pathogens of concern."
Killer frog fungus
In particular, officials are worried that the frogs could be carrying Chytridiomycosis, a disease caused by chytrid fungus and which has already instigated a steep decline in amphibious populations worldwide. "That is exactly why we're asking people to bring them to us, so that they can be sampled for the fungus," Davis said.
Between three-quarters of an inch to 2 inches large, Pacific chorus frogs have a dark mask and rounded nose, and call out in a distinctive "kreck-ek" sounding chorus.
Solution: "Overdose of Orajel"?
For those who may be a tad queasy about killing these frogs, apparently there is a gentler way: a dose of toothache analgesic to the head. "The way to humanely euthanize them is to use an overdose of Orajel, and I think it just knocks them out," Davis said. "The other thing we were asking people to do is stick it in their freezer. I know that there are people who are not going to want to do that, but I'm sure people probably aren't going to go out and buy Orajel just so that they can humanely get rid of the frog that they didn't even really want."
And one of the reasons for this holiday invasion? Alaska does not require that its imported Christmas trees be "mechanically shaken."
"Christmas trees are tough because they're bushy," said Tom Wessels, Plant Services program manager of the Washington State Department of Agriculture. "That's why they have these shakers, because they really do shake loose the stuff. And you'd be surprised what comes out of those trees."
Frogs can be reported by calling 1-877-INVASIVE.