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Thayer Cueter, who operates Just Frogs Amphibian Center, measures the frognosticator.

Weather-predicting frog gets hop on Groundhog Day

Yup, he's got it rough.

EVERETT, Wash. – Children hand feed him about 10 earthworms a week, as if he were royalty being served peeled grapes.

He eats another 200 live crickets. Those get released into his 75-gallon tank, where he lounges in a small tub of water and stares blankly at commoners with the dull interest of a king.

For a bullfrog, Snohomish Slew is living large.

He's doubled in size since being adopted last year by Thayer Cueter, a veterinary technician who keeps Slew and his bullfrog understudy at her waterfront shop in Edmonds, the Just Frogs Amphibian Center.

"They are the two luckiest bullfrogs in the state of Washington," she said.

Slew will leave his lavish home Saturday morning to go to work. He headlines at the annual GroundFrog Day celebration in Snohomish.

For the first time in its five-year history, the event will welcome back the same bullfrog.

The event, which falls three days before Groundhog Day, finds Slew offering a weather prediction, or "frognostication," as organizers say.

In the past, new bullfrogs were shipped each year to Snohomish from New Jersey. Organizers would give the frogs away after the event to a school group or a business with a pond, Chamber of Commerce manager Pam Osborne said.

Cueter heard about that and was shocked.

She worried the bullfrogs might escape into the wild. She told chamber members that, as invasive species locally, bullfrogs can wreak havoc on an ecosystem. Slew weighs 2 pounds. In the wild, he could eat the state's native tree frogs.

She pointed to information from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife that recommends netting bullfrogs or killing them with a well-placed blast from a shotgun.

"Exercise extreme caution when discharging firearms on or near water," the frog management pamphlet says.

To protect Slew from a violent end — and to keep him from harming other amphibians — she offered to adopt the bullfrog and his understudy, Snohomish Slew II.

Cueter took the frogs to a veterinarian, had them wormed — yes, wormed — and put them in a tank at her shop. The store also acts as a non-profit foundation that rescues amphibians.

She treats the bullfrogs well. Every other week, she takes them to her home and lets them swim in a bathtub. In the summer, they get to paddle around the shell of an old hot tub.

Slew's return to GroundFrog Day this year will add an environmentally conscious message to the celebration, Cueter said.

"They're the two reusable frogs," she said.

Bullfrogs have strong instincts when spring arrives. It brings them out of hibernation to breed. That's not frognostication, Cueter said. It's science.

She is unimpressed by Snohomish Slew's Pennsylvanian rival, the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, who predicts the weather with a glimpse of his shadow.

"How do we know that Phil doesn't have a secret frog in his pocket?" Cueter said. "That's my question."

GroundFrog Day

Snohomish Slew will make his weather prediction 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Ferguson Park, 1330 Ferguson Park Road, Snohomish. Activities will continue at Frogorama, held until 3 p.m. at the nearby National Guard Armory building. According to his Web site, the legend has something to do with rubbing a frog's tummy and eight more weeks "of foggy, soggy weather."

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