“It’s go time.”
The first croak of the night comes at 10:15 pm, already well past my bedtime, but I’ve been waiting for it. I leap into action, deserting my cozy spot on the couch and the suspenseful episode of House of Cards I was just engrossed in without hesitation, grabbing my flashlight off the entry table and a fresh Tupperware container out of the kitchen drawer.
David sighs heavily, hits pause, and trudges after me. His fervor is waning; after spending the previous night conducting several moonlight trappings of his own, it’s understandable. But alas, we have a mission to attend to. We can’t give up now. They can’t win. They can never win.
I am the Master Finder, David is the Master Trapper. We’re a team. A United Front Against Frogdom with a zero tolerance policy against cohabitation. Our position is steadfast. I shout my shrill battle cry into the night – You can’t live here, frog! It’s time to go!!
We have been trapping frogs now sporadically for a little over two months. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say we’ve relocated at least 15+, though in my mind, it feels like so much more. Some nights we get lucky and don’t hear and therefore, have to trap, any. Most of the time though, we hear at least one per night, trap it, and go to sleep with fingers crossed. On one particularly heinous night, we trapped 5.
I should take a moment to clarify the specific frogs in question and the problem they present to My Life As We Know It, so you can make an educated decision as to whose side of this war you’d like to be on (easy answer: mine). These are not the melodious Puerto Rican Coquí frogs, endemic to these islands, that, along with the crickets and herons, comprise everyone’s favorite tropical nighttime soundtrack (you know, the one that the tourists think is being piped out of fake rocks à la Disneyland). No, these frogs are the invasive Cuban tree frogs. They kill off native frog species and pretty much anything else they can fit in their pie holes (run, lizards, RUN). But their worst offense, as it relates to me (native species obliteration aside), is their uncanny imitation of a toucan croak.
Yes, I said toucan croak. Here’s what a toucan croak sounds like:
I have three Toco toucans that live in outdoor aviaries behind our bedroom. We adopted them a few years ago out of a crappy situation and they are my precious feathered baby angels and I have a fierce mama bear instinct to protect them. They make two main communicative sounds – a soft purring noise most of the time, and a louder croaking sound they set off as their alarm call when something is amiss (untrustworthy-looking visitor to the house, hawk flying overhead, something scary in the bushes, etc.) They generally never make any noise at all during the night while they’re sleeping, so if they did, something would have to be horribly wrong. This fact allows me to rest easy with them outside at night while we sleep inside – if they were in trouble and needed my protection, I sure as hell would hear about it and wake from sleep to run to their rescue.
Enter: The Frog Problem.
The Cuban tree frogs, which I have never heard or seen before on this island prior to moving into this house, have a shockingly loud mating/territorial cry that sounds almost identical to the toucans’ panicked alarm call. And unlike the constant “coh-kee, coh-kee” ring of the delightful Coquí frogs that imbues the darkness, they only set off their toucan-like croaks in short, manic bursts at random intervals throughout the night (connection: sounding exactly like a toucan in danger aka The Sound I’ve Always Feared). They are partial to the pool area, just outside of our bedroom door, and even with the doors closed and the A/C on, there is no not hearing them. That means we cannot seem to just “get used to them” already – their croaking is too random for my subconscious to rewire my brain over, and the hard-wiring for that specific croaking sound that is so strongly tied to “toucans in trouble” has been 3+ years in the making. Good luck changing that. Especially because it doesn’t happen every night, just every few nights. Becoming accustomed to them is not in the cards; not that I even want to become accustomed to that sound. What if my toucans are actually in trouble one night and I don’t wake up because my brain decides, meh, it’s just a frog…?
And so, our relocation efforts began. The only solution we have been able to come up with is heading out to the pool area with flashlights, finding them, trapping them in Tupperware containers, then heading down the hill to release them away from our house. It should be noted that this is no easy feat. They aren’t that large, they’re pretty well camouflaged, and they are fast, slippery little suckers who sometimes dive to the bottom of the pool to evade us (though I will boast that I have gotten pretty badass in my hunting abilities for a vegetarian, no-kill, live and let live “predator”). Not to mention that hiking down the hill multiple times per night along a pitch black road in my underwear, hoping that no one drives by and spots me, isn’t on my list of Things I Want to be Doing at 1AM.
In the beginning, my emotions were conflicted (though I think David would describe them more as decidedly bi-polar). When the frogs were loose in our yard, keeping me awake at night, I possessed a demon-like rage, with a single-minded focus to GET RID OF ALL THE F**KING FROGS. Yet once I had them in my container, depositing them down the hill, I would get all weepy, racked with guilt, wailing things like, I’m a horrible human being! Who am I to say I get to live here and they don’t? Just who do I think I am?! Their inherent cuteness factor did not help the situation.
I’m relieved to report that that phase has passed. After months of this intermittent madness, I’m now secure in my Us vs Them stance – guilt be damned. The frogs must go. Deprive me of sleep, and I go from Normal Happy Woman to Enraged Gremlin in about a day. Two months in, and I’ve endured well over my share of fitful, sheet-thrashing nights.
Which bring us to today, the two of us stuck in our own Caddyshack cycle of crazy, of which there is no final coup d’état that I can see, as I am unwilling to set the pool aflame with a ring of explosives. Though really, it matters not, as I imagine it’d be just as ineffective against these evil geniuses as it was with that damn gopher. I’m left simply hoping that no one stops by late at night and finds me hovering over the edge of the pool, nude with my flashlight, sarcastically taunting an amphibian, “Fine, stay there at the bottom, I’ll wait. I have plenty of air to breathe up here. I’m pretty sure you’re the one who has to give in. YOU CAN’T LIVE HERE FROG!”
Seeing that, and I fear they’d have no choice but to commit me.