Hunting down frogs at Oregon Ridge

Participants of all ages are welcome to join the hunt

Outside: Sports, Activities, Events

September 02, 2004|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN STAFF

Winny Wong Tan, a naturalist at the Oregon Ridge Nature Center, likes to catch frogs.

On a recent visit with her, she kneeled next to a manmade garden puddle behind the center and patiently moved her hand through the water, trying to scare a frog to the surface. A green frog, about the size of a child's hand, leaped up and settled near a rock on the edge of the water. Tan moved in to grab it, but this frog got away.

"You have to be pretty dexterous," she said, and she managed to catch the next one.

Tan is one of the four staff members at Oregon Ridge who lead periodic frog-catching missions in the park. The next ones are from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. They are free.

Participants hike through the park hunting for frogs that they "catch and release." Each session is limited to 20 people, and reservations are required.

"The main purpose of Oregon Ridge is to educate people, and we want to do that in a way that people are going to view as fun," said Ben Porter, a junior at St. Mary's College of Maryland and a summer staff member at the center. "We come out here, get wet and dirty. We sneak the nature education in with the fun stuff."

Frog hunters are encouraged to wear boots. Nets are issued by the naturalists. Participants of all ages are welcome.

When hunting, it's important to know what you're looking for. The "frogs are smooth and wet, toads are dry and bumpy," said Porter. People often confuse the two animals.

Unlike toads, frogs spend their entire lives near water. "The ideal is a swampy pond with cattails all around," said Porter. "Frogs need to stay wet."

They can burrow into the mud at the bottom of the river. Scooping into the layer of dead leaves and muck is a good hunting strategy.

When a frog is found, the naturalist identifies it and plops it into a bucket.

There are 20 types of frogs in Maryland, and 12 types in Baltimore County. None of the frogs in the state is poisonous. However, some toads secrete a substance that can irritate humans.

The nature center has several frogs in aquariums, including a bullfrog - the largest type frog in America. It makes a low brrrruuup, brrrruuup sound and can grow to the size of a dinner plate, said David Mizejewski, who manages a backyard wildlife program with National Wildlife Federation.

The bullfrog - like all Maryland frogs - is carnivorous. "It will eat small rodents, snakes; anything that moves that it can catch and stuff into its mouth," said Mizejewski. They have teeth on their upper jaw.

The smaller frogs eat invertebrates. "They spend all night gobbling insects; they're a great form of natural pest control," Mizejewski said.

The Oregon Ridge Nature Center is at 13555 Beaver Dam Road in Cockeysville. Call 410-887-1815 by tomorrow to reserve a spot on the tour.

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