Male coqui frog captured in Waimanalo neighborhood

Published On: Sep 05 2012 07:00:31 PM HST   Updated On: Sep 06 2012 09:50:13 AM HST

A lone, male coqui frog was captured at a home on Kumuhau Street in Waimanalo Tuesday night after residents were alerted by the loud noise coming from the tiny amphibian.

"I thought I heard a bird singing," said Kumuhau Street resident Wendy Hayler. "It was just loud and shrill, and it was in the night time."

Male coqui frogs emit mating calls that rise to 73 decibels or more, and have caused property values to drop on the Big Island, where they have become an established pest.

However, reports of coqui frogs on Kauai, Maui County and Oahu are far from rare. Officials with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture say at least 20 coqui frogs have been captured on Oahu since the start of the year.

"It's been really busy this past month," said Derek Arakaki of the HDOA's Plant Pest Control Branch, who's also a member of the Oahu Coqui Working Group. "Almost weekly, we've been getting calls."

Luckily, Tuesday's coqui frog hunt on Kumuhau Street took only a matter of minutes.

"That took like ten minutes," said Aaron Works, a pest response technician with the Oahu Invasive Species Committee. "That's about as well as it can go."

According to a November, 2011 report to the Hawaii Legislature, there were 16 reports of coqui frogs on Kauai from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011. A rapid response team with the Kauai Invasive species committee was able to capture 12 of the frogs by pursuing tips from local residents.

For the same time period on Oahu, 16 coqui frogs were captured at homes, while another 42 were caught at nurseries in Waimanalo and Hawaii Kai.

Meanwhile, the report said eleven coqui population centers on Maui were wiped out, and another two sites were moving toward eradication status.

But even more surprising to Oahu residents may be the 110 coqui frog sites where the quarter-size amphibians have been spotted and purged since 2003.

"And a lot of those are multiple frogs," said Arakaki, "so there's a lot more frogs involved then just 110."

It's believed many of the coqui frogs that arrive on other islands hitch a ride from the Big Island, on nursery plants, landscape plants, and other materials that can hold water or moisture.

In 2009, roughly half of the HDOA's 95 agricultural inspectors were laid off under Gov. Linda Lingle as the state grappled with the aftermath of the Great Recession. In 2010, Gov. Neil Abercrombie restored 10 inspector positions at Honolulu International Airport, but the report to the legislature said more inspectors are needed to keep coqui frogs and other invasive species at bay.

"Additional quarantine inspectors are needed to effectively screen the volume of interisland cargo," the report noted.

Arakaki said it's vital for residents to report suspected coqui frog locations as soon as possible, so that HDOA officials can try and prevent the frog from spreading throughout the state.

"Without the public, we wouldn't be able to succeed in eradicating anything," he said.

On Sept. 12, the Oahu Invasive Species Committee is urging Oahu residents to use the city's 311 smart phone app to report any suspected coqui activity.

Those who don't have access to a smart phone, can call the Hawaii Pest Hotline at 643-PEST.


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