Researcher: Some Hawaii residents living in areas with coqui frogs beginning to tolerate them

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HILO, Hawaii — People living in Big Island communities where coqui frogs have become established are growing tolerant of the amphibians, researchers said in a new study published this month.

Emily Kalnicky studied 85 private properties in 12 communities across the island in 2008, West Hawaii Today reported ( ).

Her research measured the relationship between coqui abundance and residents' attitudes toward the frogs. She also studied how residents participated in efforts to control coqui populations.

"They're getting used to them being there," she said.

Kalnicky studied the topic for her doctoral dissertation in ecology at Utah State University. Her paper, written with two other scientists, appeared in the December edition of Biological Conservation.

Coqui frogs reproduce and spread quickly in Hawaii because they have no natural predators on the islands. The animals native to Puerto Rico were accidentally introduced to the Big Island in the 1990s.

To some, the frogs and their mating calls are a noisy nuisance. They can disrupt sleep, reduce property values, devalue nursery crops and interfere with the native ecosystem. To others, the frogs' calls are the music of the rain forest, a soothing sound from a welcome critter that gobbles up mosquitoes, flies and even fire ants.

Kalnicky's research showed people who own their property were more positive toward coqui frogs than renters. Her paper theorized this may be because owners are more invested in their properties.

Joshua Atwood, invasive species coordinator for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said coqui frogs have been designated as "injurious wildlife" by his department and a "pest" by the state Department of Agriculture.

He said these classifications are based on how coqui affect agriculture and the environment. He said the labels wouldn't change based on whether people have gotten used to hearing coqui frogs around their homes.

Studies have shown that coqui frogs harm the environment by eating invertebrates other species depend on for food, upsetting the natural balance.

Information from: West Hawaii Today,

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