American bullfrogs will eat anything that fits inside their mouth, including native and endangered frogs and salamanders, songbirds, mice and snakes. Islands Trust Conservancy has received funding for a project to clear them off Sidney Island. (Black Press Media File)

American bullfrogs will eat anything that fits inside their mouth, including native and endangered frogs and salamanders, songbirds, mice and snakes. Islands Trust Conservancy has received funding for a project to clear them off Sidney Island. (Black Press Media File)

Islands Trust Conservancy gets funds to fend off bullfrogs on Sidney Island

The $25,000 comes from provincial government program worth $10 million

Upcoming efforts to rid Sidney Island of an invasive aquatic plant and aggressive bullfrogs will help protect the island’s biodiversity with benefits for humans, says a local biologist.

“We are focusing work on ecosystems that we think will help protect our biodiversity through climate change,” said Kathryn Martell, ecosystems protection specialist, with Islands Trust Conservancy. “The best tool that we have to help species — including humans — to persist through climate change is trying to protect and restore healthy natural ecosystems.”

Her organization received $25,000 for 2021 through a provincial government program worth $10 million designed to restore and conserve wildlife species and ecosystems as part of the provincial economic recovery program.

“We are just delighted that we were able to get this funding from the province to help really focus on those biodiversity hotspots of wetlands, which are also disproportionately feeling the effects of climate throughout our islands,” she said.

The money will fund projects on Sidney Island and Lasqueti Island.

The work on Sidney Island will focus on a pond within a wetland complex spreading across several acres outside the national park on private property.

On the plant side, the work scheduled to start in early May will focus on removing parrot’s feather, a plant that many with an aquarium or landscape pond would recognize, said Martell, adding that this species is relatively new in British Columbia.

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“It can reproduce from fragments,” she said. “So if ducks or other birds land in your garden pond, those fragments can spread out into native areas.” Other sources may include dumped out aquariums.

The work will see crews lay down a light-blocking fabric on the pond floor over a couple of days, then check back over several months, said Martell.

That pond probably also happens to be the breeding pond for the bullfrogs that have established themselves on Sidney Island.

“Although they have only been noticed on Sidney Island in the last couple of years and no one has done an extensive survey, our experts are reasonably confident that they must be throughout Sidney Island already,” she said.

Martell describes bullfrogs as aggressive predators that can get very large. “If you scour the internet, you can find pictures of bullfrogs eating kittens and ducklings,” she said. “So not only are they preying on those kinds of wildlife … but they can also very quickly eradicate populations of native amphibians and reptiles as well.”

Bullfrogs originally hail from Florida, where they have competed against alligators and other large predators. “But they don’t have that here,” she said. Bullfrogs arrived in the region in multiple ways, including as part of a program to build up a frog leg industry, she added.

That removal project will take several years with the provincial money supplementing the conservancy’s core funding.

The conservancy has also received funding from the federal government and is currently looking to hire additional labour to round out the roster of four restoration experts.

“We are looking specifically, where we can, to hire people from local First Nations, youth and other people who would have been even more affected from the lack of job opportunities.”


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Saanich Peninsula