Recently, a lot of scientists have spoken to the news media about their concern over frogs and toads. Their numbers are decreasing worldwide, they say, and this is an indicator that mankind is poisoning our environment.
Well, I'm here to tell you that's not true, for two reasons:
1) The number of frogs and toads worldwide has not decreased. They've just all moved to my backyard.
2) If frogs and toads are dying in great numbers, it's because they are both exceedingly slow and incredibly stupid.
I really don't understand why there are 3.2 million amphibians in my yard. We don't have a pool or fountain, or even so much as a small, smelly and stagnant puddle of water. This isn't a particularly buggy neighborhood, so there isn't a midnight snack bar, from a frog point of view anyway. Even worse, there are four dogs in the yard to our right, and one dog in the yard to our left, and there were two cats in this house before we got here.
In fact, if I were the author of An Amphibian's Guide to Southwestern Ontario, I would have rated this yard: “One Fly Out of Five – Dry beds, lousy eats, and you risk being turned into toad turd just getting there. Not exactly a ribbeting experience.”
Now, on the whole, I have no argument with green and slightly damp creatures. I don't find them icky or slimy. I can easily fall asleep to the sound of a 280-part frog chorus, even if it's right under my window. I especially like the fact that they eat mosquitoes, because mozzies tend to regard me as a walking buffet.
What I do object to is the sheer number of them. This is because amphibians apparently have the following responses to danger:
If There Is A Human Approaching: Lie very, very still so that you either get stepped on or kicked into insensibility.
If You Are Stepped On and Squashed: Just croak.
If You Are Kicked Senseless: Lie there looking very stunned and stupid for hours. If prodded, definitely do not respond, so human assumes you are dead and picks you up to respectfully dispose of you to prevent further squashing. Then jump suddenly from a great height to both startle human and land hard enough to stun yourself stupid again.
If There Is A Human Approaching But Not In Danger of Stepping On You or Kicking You: Wait until the last minute and then jump out of nowhere startling the human and possibly prompting him or her to trip and step on you accidentally.
If There Is A Lawnmower Approaching: Make sure you are well camouflaged so the human pushing it can't possibly see that you're directly in the path of the mower. Definitely do not move out of the way of the loud, noisy, vibrating machine that gives you plenty of warning and that contains several vicious, whirring, slashing blades…
If A Human Comes Down to the Basement: Be sure to make several loud noises and hop onto the very white washing machine so that you are clearly visible. This will ensure you are quickly given the frog bum's rush and chucked unceremoniously out the door. See also Kicked Senseless.
So, because I'm not keen to make either frog pancakes or chopped frog salad on a regular basis, I've decided to follow the lead of certain Western nations. I'm rounding up anything that is either green or jumpy, throwing it in the Toad Detention Center, and then deporting the lot to the local river.
And if I sound hoarse this week, it's because I've yelled, “Argh! Another one!” too many times.
Either that, or I have a frog in my throat.
To read more of Chandra's work, visit www.ChandraKClarke.com.