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Ra-ra-rana

October 8, 2010

I took my three-year-old son into the swamp, and he didn’t want to leave. I know exactly how he feels. We meandered around the paths, fighting back the thick, encroaching brush and working our way in. Then, we entered the inner sanctum, the low point – sunken far below surrounding roads and neighborhoods. Here water rises and falls, birds rule, ferns tickle and moss softens each footfall.

As we began walking along the main stream, sudden movement shook leaves and startled the water. Frogs. Tiny frogs, big frogs and bigger frogs leapt out of our way as we moved. I was thrilled. We hear, and sometimes find, tree frogs – the spring peepers. But in the years we’ve played and stalked in the swamp, I’ve never seen bullfrogs. Is the water level higher? Is it a good year for frogs? Did I simply miss them before? The answer to the sudden appearance of many frogs may be all of those things and more. All I know is that we finally have frogs to catch – and catch them we did.

I did my frog-catching training in the cranberry bog across the road from my childhood home. Sarah Garrett showed me how. We were five or six and she lived in the house next-door. She had a boyish haircut and cowboy boots and she could shimmy up a tree and ride a unicycle. And she could catch frogs. I followed her lead and practiced creeping up behind them, crouching on the bank and bursting forth to cover them with my hands. She also taught me to turn them upside down and stroke their bellies, putting them into a trance. It was a magical thing to hold those leaping creatures and experience their fragility as they lay vulnerable on their backs.

 

 

Mr. Jeremy

 

Now, as I show my son those same skills, I am aware of more extensive amphibian vulnerability. One-third of the world’s frog species are threatened by extinction. The chytrid fungus that has decimated amphibian populations has pervaded all the world’s continents with frog populations and has been identified in amphibians in Rhode Island. Frogs are also contending with loss of habitat, pesticides, pollution, over-harvesting for food and the pet trade, invasive species and climate-related issues. While it’s tempting to catch a few big bullfrogs and make dinner from their legs, I can’t do it in good conscience knowing the threats to their existence. While Cape Cod bullfrogs may not have been identified as a species at risk of disappearing, there is no telling what the near future may hold for those denizens of the swamp. And besides, I like them too much.

Our foray into the swamp lasted just as long as it possibly could, until other matters took precedence. My boy wasn’t happy to leave, but I promised we would return, and we left with a few photos, including a few of  “Mr. Jeremy Fisher,” who posed for us even though we had nudged him with a stick to watch him hop. The good news was that no one lost their boots in the sinking mud or fell in the stream. The thrilling news was that we have frogs!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. justin permalink
    November 8, 2010 11:26 am

    haha ra rana is what we say in school lol

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