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Free the frogs in Federal Way’s wild waters

Last month, St. Vincent’s Federal Way Girl Scout Troop 2309 participated in a “Free the Frog” event at the West Hylebos Wetlands. Pictured left to right: Seraphina Kwon, Alex Dolezal, Andrea Hallahan and Annie Gardner. - Courtesy of Jan Hallahan
Last month, St. Vincent’s Federal Way Girl Scout Troop 2309 participated in a “Free the Frog” event at the West Hylebos Wetlands. Pictured left to right: Seraphina Kwon, Alex Dolezal, Andrea Hallahan and Annie Gardner.
— image credit: Courtesy of Jan Hallahan

Last month, St. Vincent’s Federal Way Girl Scout Troop 2309 participated in a “Free the Frog” event at the West Hylebos Wetlands.

It sounded like a sane idea a month before — the tiny tadpoles were newly hatched and vulnerable. Hope of survival was heaped upon them by an 8-year-old girl, who just wished for them to grow up (like any normal parent) to become the frog they were meant to be.

I admit this froggy business is all new to me. Researching the frog habitat and lifecycle would have made the “Free the Frog” event a little less challenging. If I only knew then, what I know now!

Reading on the Internet about the green and brown striped Pacific tree frogs, I was surprised at how similar frogs are to guys. Maybe that’s why fairy tales often turn them into men — it’s a natural progression! Here are a few facts for you to ponder.

Fill in the blank spaces with “men,” “frogs” or “toads.” Most are interchangeable:

_____ breathe with lungs.

_____ have short legs to crawl.

_____ have long legs to leap.

_____ have dry, warty skin.

_____ have smooth skin.

_____ live all over the world except Antarctica and Iceland.

_____ will protect their territory from other males.

_____ repeat their mating call all night, and can be heard a mile or more away.

_____ must be touched by a female before giving them attention.

Third grade Troop 2309 leader, Connie Dolezal, led four girls deep into the woods, or rather, to a nice, sunny clearing with a picnic table to eat lunch, and completed their Water Drop Patch. Conservation of water and recycling were a few of the topics discussed.

The Hylebos is a sensitive wetland and an excellent local place to learn about bogs, natural plants as opposed to invasive species, and yes, to free the frogs.

The girls searched for wildlife too, but, other than a domesticated rabbit relaxing under a car on an adjacent property, there weren’t any sightings. Unless you count oozing slugs as wildlife?

There was bewildering hoopla over the big and small slugs. You’d think they’d never seen one before; cameras snapped away.

Meandering through the Hylebos trail on the beautiful new boardwalk, we kept our eyes open for “the spot” — the perfect place to gently release the five frogs back into the wild.

However, there was a tiny problem. The frogs were still tadpoles. Upon pre-setting the date for the event, I assumed that the tadpoles would have legs and leap onto the lovely foliage and live happily ever after.

Each girl carried one lonely tadpole in a clear glass jar filled with pond water. The anxiety of releasing the tadpoles overwhelmed my daughter, their overprotective keeper. She lectured on how to hold the jar upright without jiggling it.

Brooklake was our destination, but it seemed to take forever to get there. Herding them to the lake opening, disappointment loomed.

Access to the water was not possible with the new boardwalk. Which is a good thing, as it is a wetland, and protection is needed to ensure it stays pristine. Plan B immediately took effect. Find water, any water. Standing pond or running fast — doesn’t matter. Someplace to dump, I mean, let the tadpoles swim away so we could go home.

Following the path, we knew without a doubt that there would be a bridge over water. We kept walking with our eyes peeled for the telltale signs.

At last we approached a small bridge and looked down. Voila! There was enough of a puddle to finish the mission.

Saying goodbye is hard. Especially when the tadpoles were given names, although telling them apart was difficult.

Precise instructions were given as to how to drop them over the railing — until all proceedings were halted. Hysteria broke out as my daughter cried in anguish, “They’ll die! They will starve to death! All they know is lettuce!”

Mrs. Dolezal and I assured her that tadpoles eat algae and other appropriate plants. They are happiest in their element, we asserted confidently.

Three amphibians were thrown over, while two remained captive. I’m positive that our tadpoles back home were pleased to be reunited with their brother/sister.

I was thanked a lot by the parent of the Brownie bringing home a new pet in a jar. I do believe in sharing the wealth.

Overall I would say that this event is worthy of a yearly jaunt. The West Hylebos trail feels remote like you are on vacation, not in a city. Preserving that land is important not only to Federal Way, but to its nature conservationist citizens.

I intend to do my part with the Hylebos and ensure that the frog population remains intact. Very, very soon (it’s 11 weeks from hatching to hopping), there will be the real “free the frog” event.

I’ll even toss in a bunch of wilted lettuce.

Federal Way resident Jan Hallahan is a writer and mom. Contact: Jan12160@yahoo.com.

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