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Coqui-Free Waimea

A coqui frog in an undated photo (PHOTO COURTESY OF CFW)
A coqui frog in an undated photo (PHOTO COURTESY OF CFW)

After an unusually dry summer and a blustery winter, Waimea is beginning to creep into spring. As the temperatures rise, we will be hearing coqui frogs again (although several areas reported hearing the pest whenever winds died down and temperatures warmed up a bit). Coqui-Free Waimea has started a monthly booth at the Hawaiian Homelands farmers market, as well as a table once a month at the Wednesday market. What we hear from residents during those times is encouraging.

First, the most common comment two years ago was “The cold will kill them.” We don’t hear that anymore, which is good, because the survival of frogs in infested areas of town proves they just wait for warm nights. However, coqui frogs need moisture, avoid wind, and stay in the ground if it’s too cold. This gives us a break and slows down their rate of reproduction — all the better for us to get back out during coqui “season” and listen, locate and eliminate.

The second most common comment was “It’s hopeless.” But North Kohala and Volcano have been managing coqui frogs for 10 years, and we are making headway to do the same in Waimea. Increasingly, we hear people tell us stories about hearing coquis around their home or workplace, getting out to hunt them down, and capturing or spraying them. We love the fighting spirit of the growing numbers of people who say, “Yes, we can do this!”

Also encouraging is the growing recognition that we as a community are building the process and structure to deal with this invasive pest. Now under the leadership of the Kohala Watershed Partnership, a project of The Kohala Center, CFW has the guidance of professional conservation biologists. Through grants and donations, we have been able to purchase spraying equipment for a range of situations, along with the citric acid needed for spraying. CFW worked with the County of Hawaii to procure citric acid for all groups around the island to buy at reduced cost. Valerie Poindexter, county council member for Hamakua, used a portion of her discretionary funds to purchase citric acid for CFW and other groups in her district.

At the same time, residents are supporting this volunteer effort with donations and time. Entire subdivisions are raising awareness and helping keep the pest out of their neighborhoods, as well as sending donations to CFW. Our volunteer coordinator, Tara Seeley, responds to calls to the coqui hotline (which is now 313-1094), schedules neighborhood surveys and hunts, and coordinates volunteers to help residents get rid of frogs. She can also be reached at info@coquifreewaimea.org. We began using professional technical support where indicated and as donations make possible.

To support this effort, send donations to The Kohala Center (write “coqui in the memo line), P.O. Box 437462, Kamuela 96743.

As spring progresses, be sure to spend a few moments at night listening for coqui calls. Then locate and eliminate them. If you need help, call Coqui-Free Waimea at 313-1094 or email your report to info@coquifreewaimea.org. And like us on Facebook (another way to report frogs) and visit our website for more information.