Illinois hunting and fishing

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Tree frogs moving into urban areas

June 20, 2011 at 07:47 PM

PEKIN, Ill. — Tree frogs are going the way of the country mouse: to the city. This year, experts say, high levels of rain have left pools of water in which females can lay their eggs without fear of fish eating them.

Meredith Mahoney, assistant curator and zoologist for the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, said gray tree frogs are typically found in woodsy, wet areas, but this year they can also be found hanging out on decks and crawling up the sides of houses in places that are not located near natural water sources.

In addition, many city dwellers are finding the night quiet is being broken by a noise they aren’t accustomed to hearing: the loud “trill” of the male frog calling any and all mates.

“The trill call is very distinctive,” said Mahoney. “The males seek out spots where they can get good volume.

“The males hang out in one place and call to the females, who come and go. Even one little guy can be pretty loud.”

Mahoney said it may not be a sound typical to city people, but it is very common in wooded areas around the state, as well as in other parts of the nation.

Though its name would indicate a distinctive color, gray tree frogs actually come in an assortment of colors, shapes and sizes, she said.

While the big-mouth bellowers are generally harmless, said Mahoney, the frogs do secrete a fluid from their underbelly that has a bitter taste. The bitterness of the secretions is designed to ward off animal predators, but, Mahoney cautions, it can cause an allergic reaction when rubbed near the eyes.

“I got some in my eyes and had a sneezing fit,” she said.

Mahoney advises anyone who handles a gray tree frog to make sure to wash his hands thoroughly afterward.

She said tree frogs like a moist, humid climate and need water to survive, so once the heavy heat of July comes and the water dries up they will retreat to cooler, moist areas.

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