A bizarre roadkill situation recently caused a terrifying stir when tourists unknowingly carried a dead bullfrog over Sutton Pass and into the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
“This is a completely flukey, weird, isolated event,” local frog researcher and member of Wetland Stewards for Clayoquot and Barkley Sound Barb Beasley told the Westerly News. “This car hit a bullfrog as it was traveling on the highway somewhere on the east side of the Island and the bullfrog got wedged just under the grill.”
Bullfrogs are strictly persona non grata on the West Coast due to their ability to spread rapidly and bring catastrophe to local plants and wildlife.
“We don’t want them to come here and, if they do come here, we want to find out as fast as we can. The reason is because we would try our best to destroy any of the first arrivals because we don’t want them to spread,” Beasley said adding female bullfrogs can lay between 12,000-20,000 eggs.
“Bullfrogs are really good competitors. The tadpoles get to be at least twice the size of any native species of frogs’ tadpoles and adults are huge and they eat other species; not just native species of frogs, but also ducklings, small mammals and all sorts of other things.”
She said bullfrogs could have a particularly damaging impact on native frog populations like red legged tree frogs and western toads.
“Our northern red legged frog population is very important because it’s one of the largest ones ever documented in Canada,” she said. “It’s pretty cool and it’s pretty important for us to protect it.”
Bullfrogs are not native to B.C., but were brought over from Eastern Canada in the 1950’s in order to be farmed for their meaty legs, according to Beasley.
“People thought it would be a great idea because people love frogs’ legs, but it apparently didn’t work out very well and those farms stopped farming and those bullfrogs ended up being released into the wild,” she said.
Bullfrog populations have since struck up on the mainland as well as southern Vancouver Island, but Sutton Pass has, so far, served as a vital barrier between the West Coast and the closest known population at Sproat Lake.
When Park Reserve staffer Jackie Aubertin spotted a bullfrog hanging from a vehicle parked at the Rainforest Trail, she immediately reported it to Beasley who said a dissection revealed roughly 10,000 unfertilized eggs in the frog’s ovaries.
It was the first bullfrog Beasley, who has been surveying frogs on the West Coast since 1998, had ever seen and not for lack of trying.
She said roughly 150 ponds were surveyed around 1999 with no bullfrogs discovered and, since then, continuous surveys and community outreach projects have shown bullfrog-free surroundings.
“I’ve had several people send me photographs of frogs they were worried might be bullfrogs, but I’ve always been able to identify them by the photographs as red legged frogs or Western Toads,” she said.
Bullfrogs are large green or brown animals with big yellow eyes, according to the B.C. Ministry of Environment’s FrogWatch program. Females can reach 20 centimetres in length and roughly 750 grams, while males are typically smaller. Anyone who spots what they think could be a bullfrog should immediately report their sighting to email@example.com.
“We don’t think we understand how the world works perfectly yet, so we like to maintain all of the components in as natural a system as we possibly can because that’s how we think we can maintain balance,” Beasley said.
“When one invasive species comes in, no matter what it is, whether it’s Scotch Broom or English Ivy or Japanese Knotweed, or crazy zebra mussels in the case of Lake Ontario, those species’ populations tend to expand quickly and they cause significant change in what the normal conditions are and, typically, reduce biodiversity in those sites.”