Bullfrog population is booming in Steveston

Did you ever wake up with them bullfrogs on your mind? Many residents of Mariners Village have and  would like the invasive species gone from their pond. - Martin van den Hemel
Did you ever wake up with them bullfrogs on your mind? Many residents of Mariners Village have and would like the invasive species gone from their pond.
— image credit: Martin van den Hemel

There’s an unmistakable noise coming from the sprawling ponds outside a Steveston townhouse complex, and one resident has had enough.

American Bullfrogs have all but taken over the ponds around Mariners Village on Seventh Avenue. Mating calls from the non-native species can be heard as far as a kilometre away, and the croaking creatures will eat almost anything that can fit into their gaping mouths.

The bullfrogs, which can grow to the size of a dinner plate, have been in the ponds for years, but in the three summers Dublanica has lived in the complex, she’s seen numbers of the non-native species grow.

“There’s more and more of them,” said Shannon Dublanica. “The population just seems to be exploding, and nobody seems to be doing much about it.”

Bullfrogs are found in freshwater ponds and lakes throughout the Lower Mainland and on southern Vancouver Island. Originally found in the Mississippi River, bullfrogs were introduced to B.C. to supply a frog leg industry that never materialized.

Those who don’t appreciate the loud tuba-like mating calls—heard from spring to mid-summer—are forced to close their windows at night. But Dublanica said her larger worry is the voracious appetite of the bullfrog, which even eats B.C.’s native frogs.

”My major concern is they’re getting rid of all our native species,” she said. “They can eat birds, they can eat ducklings, they eat garter snakes. They seem to be decimating our natural predators that are out there.”

Meanwhile an invasion of the milfoil plant is giving the frogs convenient spots to bask at Mariners Village. Short of encouraging neighbours to acquire a taste for frog legs, Dublanica doesn’t know what can be done.

Provincial wildlife officials recognize the threat posed by bullfrogs, deeming them a “priority.” But the Ministry of Environment says given the high level of bullfrog expansion, eradication of the frogs from B.C. is “cost-prohibitive.” Instead, the ministry if concentrating on preventing bullfrog introduction in uncolonized areas, targeted containment and reducing the risk to native species by using habitat restoration to maintain native amphibian populations despite the bullfrogs’ presence.

Stan Orchard, a frog hunter in Victoria, said his firm has eliminated 30,000 bullfrogs in an effort to protect B.C.’s native species. Bullfrogs can be eradicated from a pond system, but the water will still be at risk of repopulation from overland migrating frogs.

“It’s going to be an ongoing management problem until they’re eradicated regionally because they do move around a lot.”

He said the ministry should be doing more, instead of simply asking frog-spotters to send information on their finds to the B.C. Frog Watch program.

“To send a report to Frog Watch and expect something to be done is the equivalent to writing to Santa Claus. It’s a public relations sham. They’re collecting these reports, but they have no intention of doing anything about it,” he said.

Orchard said bullfrogs can be eradicated from the Gulf Islands and likely Vancouver Island, but the Lower Mainland faces a greater challenge with the potential of cross-border hoppers from Washington state.

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