Green Hitch-hikers: Invasive Species Hitching a Ride into the Park
Ken Voorhis, Great Smoky Mountains Institute
The Smokies added a new species to its list of known amphibians spring of 2011, but it should not be here. A small, bright green treefrog may be attractive, but the jury is still out as to whether it will harm the park. It probably hitched a ride to the park on visitors' vehicles and/or on equipment brought into the park.
The green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) appears to have been breeding in one spot in Cades Cove near the campground for several years. None were detected during a frog call survey in 2008. Photographer Brian Shults first called it to the attention of park officials in 2011. By 2013, a University of Georgia researcher estimated there were tens of thousands in the eastern two thirds of the Cove. This species is native to the coastal plain of southern states, a long way from the Great Smoky Mountains. While they certainly are feeding on insects here in the park, the treefrogs may or may not have an impact on any of them, or on the other species of amphibians that share their breeding ponds. The team from the University of Georgia is trying to determine if the green treefrogs pose a threat to native frogs. In the meantime, check over your vehicles and trailers, especially in wheel wells and underneath, for any unwanted hitch-hikers before visiting the park.