B.C. frog hunter warns of species 'as invasive as rats'
Emily Chan, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, June 19, 2014 5:01PM EDT
Stan Orchard is out to hunt a species of animal he says is as invasive as rats, as big as rabbits, and hungry for Vancouver Island’s snakes, turtles, and even birds. The intrusive creature is the American bullfrog, and it’s infesting B.C. ecosystems, Orchard told CTVNews Channel.
Orchard used to be a frog conservationist and an amphibian specialist at the Royal B.C. Museum. But in 2005 he established www.bullfrogcontrol.com Inc., a frog-hunting company dedicated to eradicating the American Bullfrog from B.C. He’s collected over 30,000 frogs since 2007.
The American bullfrog is native to the Mississippi drainage in the eastern U.S., Orchard said, but the species has spread around to world to western North America, Europe, and southeast Asia. Aspiring frog farmers brought American bullfrogs to B.C. decades ago, Orchard said, when they tried to harvest the animals for fish bait, pets, and human consumption. The farming ventures were unsuccessful, but the species has quickly multiplied in the new environment where traditional predators, such as alligators and snapping turtles, don’t exist.
"They can adapt to variable conditions so they’re thriving in the tropics all the way up to temperate climates," Orchard said.
Now, the large bullfrogs pose a danger to the Vancouver Island’s native species. Orchard has studied over 5,000 American bullfrog stomachs, and said they revealed that the frogs’ destructive diet includes baby turtles and ducks, song birds, salmon, and more.
“They can cause a lot of ecological damage,” Orchard said. “But with a bit of imagination and the right tools you can actually combat that and you can eliminate them.”
Orchard’s company uses a special technique to catch the frogs at night by attracting them to light, stunning them with an electric pole, and gathering them in a net. He then lowers the frogs’ body temperatures until eventually freezing them to death.
Speaking to CTV, Orchard compared his mission to the Albertan government’s efforts to eradicate rats in the province. Alberta has had a rat control program in place since the 1950s, and the province has declared itself rat-free for over 50 years.
Orchard believes that, with support and funding, the spread of bullfrogs in B.C. could be reversed and the species could be similarly eradicated.
But at the moment Orchard is one of two people actively working to eliminate the species from Vancouver Island. Though alien species are supposed to be restricted by the B.C. Wildlife Act, the provincial government hasn’t shown any interest in supporting or funding efforts to eradicate American bullfrogs, said Orchard.
He said that a long-term commitment is necessary to investigate where the frogs have invaded and to determine how much money and manpower is necessary to eliminate them. Despite the financial and time requirements, though, Orchard said bullfrog eradication should matter to provincial politicians.
“It’s a commitment that’s worth taking on,” he said.
For now, Orchard relies on support from local governments. He said his main priority at the moment is keeping the frogs from breaking into Victoria’s water reservoir.