They searched high, they searched low and they searched in nearly every nook and cranny for the quarter-sized coqui frog Tuesday evening in Waimea.
“Most of us never dreamed that we would spend evenings out killing frogs, but we really value the quiet that we have because it’s a special place,” said Kathy Rawle, a long-time volunteer for Coqui-Free Waimea, who helped start coqui control efforts in August 2011 in her Vacationland neighborhood. “But, if we can knock back the biggest infestation, then it will become a smaller maintenance issue.”
Coqui-Free Waimea volunteers spent several hours in the dark on King Kamehameha Day inspecting trees, backyard shrubs and homes in the Puunani subdivision off Hohola Street for the noisy critter, Eleutherodactylus coqui.
The coqui, known for its echoing chirp, is found throughout Waimea, with the largest infestations in the Puunani, Puanuanu and Nani Waimea areas, Rawle said.
More than a dozen coqui frogs were captured and killed with citric acid by the half-dozen volunteers who braved mild temperatures and misty and windy conditions.
The frogs were found in a multitude of areas from gutters and downspouts to newly planted shrubs and established trees.
“It was a big success,” Rawle said of the community effort. “Those who volunteered said it was a good experience and they now know how to do it.”
Tuesday’s coqui control effort came near the start of coqui season in Waimea, which runs from about April to November, Rawle said.
The season coincides with the warming of temperatures in the area, which means the male coqui — the one that makes all the racket — starts calling for a mate.
“The myth is that the coqui is not in Waimea because it’s too cold, but they do tend to go quiet during the winter months,” Rawle said. “But, they come right back when it warms up.”
According to Rawle, a female coqui can lay 30 to 50 eggs per month with 90 percent of the eggs hatching within three to four weeks. About half of those hatchlings will be female and sexually mature in one year.
Coqui-Free Waimea, a project of the Kohala Watershed Partnership which falls under the nonprofit umbrella of The Kohala Center, was established less than two years ago with the hopes of educating the community and capturing and killing the frogs to keep Waimea quiet, Rawle said.
It followed a successful neighborhood coqui removal effort by Rawle in her Vacationland subdivision.
Once the neighborhood effort became a little more organized and permission was needed to spray other properties, Rawle said the Big Island Invasive Species Council got involved, providing a plethora of information and data on the frog, as well as educating volunteers on how to get the upper hand on the invasive species.
Control efforts have since been held sporadically throughout Waimea.
The effort also got a boost from a $10,000 grant last year from the Richard Smart Fund that was used to purchase equipment and other necessities.
Coqui-Free Waimea also recently hired a part-time volunteer coordinator thanks to donations from various groups and individuals, Rawle said.
To further coqui control efforts, Rawle said the organization is working with area Hawaii County Council members to see if the county’s purchasing power — particularly for the citric acid — might be possible.
Rawle also said some funding might come to the project from council district discretionary funding.
With coqui season under way in Waimea, Coqui-Free Waimea is encouraging members to get out in their yards and neighborhoods to locate infestations despite the cool evening temperatures.
If you can’t capture or spray them yourself, Rawle is asking Waimea residents to mark the spot of the infestation and call CFW’s hot line at 885-FROG.
“Residents can do a lot of that work for us,” she said, noting that the volunteers often are unable to canvass areas outside their own neighborhoods.
Anyone interested in volunteering should also call the hot line at 885-FROG.
A follow-up coqui control effort will likely take place this coming week.