The celebrated musical frog of Washington, DC

May 21, 2018
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Have you ever found an animal in danger or in a strange place, and weren’t sure what to do? Jessica Jones, Outreach and Education Manager of the Department of Environmental Protection, recently had a unique wildlife encounter that made her question whether she did the right thing. Thankfully, she happens to work with experts who know a thing or two about wildlife.

On Sunday, May 20, my husband and I were in DC to see the 2pm showing of Waitress at the National Theatre. We had just gotten off the Circulator bus at Franklin Square (with 20 minutes to spare before the start time) when Ankit spotted something moving on the sidewalk.

He asked me to look down and confirm whether his eyes were deceiving him. It took me a second to get out of my headspace of powering through the 4 block walk to the theater, but then I saw it. Hopping next to the curb at the bus stop was a tiny frog.

I bent down and put my cell phone out to the frog, who hopped right on. Our beautiful new friend, who I named Franklin, was a gray treefrog.


How in the world did you get here?

If you’re not familiar, Franklin Square is in downtown DC, located at 13th and I Streets NW, 4 blocks from the White House and surrounded by high traffic roads. It is no where near Rock Creek Park where the trees and standing water puddles would serve as perfect habitat for Franklin.

We came to two conclusions – he was left in the park after being an abandoned pet or he traveled a long treacherous journey in search of a mate and found the fountain in the middle of the Square. Either way, he was moments from being squished by a foot or a bus.

What do we do now?

So now I have a frog on my phone, 15 minutes to curtain and no suitable habitat to bring him to. I was extremely conflicted – my experience working with animal education is that you should first leave wildlife alone, and then only engage to protect the wildlife from immediate danger (if you can safely do it).

But was this a confused pet or an amorous frog who wandered very far from safety?

Ankit asked me, “What do we do with Franklin?” and I replied, “I’m more concerned with the next 3 hours.” My husband looked at me for a second and then realized that I intended to take Franklin with us to the theater.

I conveniently had a tupperware of almonds to sneak into the theater in my purse. I dumped it out, poked holes in the lid with a key and placed Franklin inside.

And off we went to see Waitress.



Catch and Release

I really want to say that Franklin is the first amphibian to sit through a stage performance, but I could not confirm that online. During intermission, we debated keeping Franklin, but decided together that the best home for him was back in the wild.

After the show, we took a car to Rock Creek Park and released him in the woods along the path next to the Horse Center in Woodley Park.

The whole evening I debated whether we did the right thing – taking him with us, transplanting him – and decided to get the answer from our experts at DEP’s biological monitoring team.


Franklin’s Adventure to DC

Kenny Mack is a member of the Montgomery County, MD Department of Environmental Protection’s Biological Monitoring Team and an expert at County wildlife. Here is what he thinks happened to Franklin:

“This time of year gray treefrogs are really active and are actually pretty good travelers. You’ll often see them in backyards in suburban areas and are commonly seen on the sides of pools. They travel for mates, but also find themselves on the sides of vehicles. That might have been what happened to Franklin. He was on the side of a vehicle that was driven from his home to DC. He found his way to the Square because of the fountain in the middle.”

I asked Kenny, “Did we do the right thing taking him out of the Square and releasing him in Rock Creek Park?”

“You could have left him on the side of a tree in the Square and he might have been fine there. But Franklin is probably much happier in Rock Creek Park. Plus, he will have a much easier hibernation season then trying to hibernate in downtown DC.”

“What about us taking him to see Waitress?”

“Well, I don’t know if he appreciated the performance, but they are hearty amphibians. I am sure Franklin will have a good life in Rock Creek Park.”

Ankit and I hope so too!

-By Jessica Jones, animal lover who came this close to having a pet frog.


Want to help frogs like Franklin? Become a member of the County’s FrogWatch program. Let me know if you hear any frogs singing the chorus of Waitress.

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