Let sleeping frogs lie? Snyder will decide

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing – Let sleeping frogs lie?

Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, argued as much in an impassioned speech before the state House voted 69-39 to allow people to hunt frogs with spears and flashlights during the dark Michigan winter. Most Democrats voted against the legislation.

Rabhi — who walked past the press table on Thursday to display his frog-adorned tie — urged his Republican and Democratic colleagues to vote against the plan. He asked them to consider the unfairness of allowing the spearing of frogs during the winter, when they’re hibernating.

“It will allow for the taking of sleeping frogs which have no chance of defending themselves,” he said, adding that he was concerned it could throw delicate ecosystems into imbalance if hunters skewer too many hapless frogs.

But his pleas did not persuade Republicans, who argued the legislation allows a state commission within the Department of Natural Resources to decide the manner in which frog hunting might be expanded. The legislation would allow repeal prohibitions on winter hunting and using flashlights.

The legislation repeals a section in state law that stops frog hunters from “gigging” from Nov. 16 through late spring. Frogs hibernate during the winter to survive.

“I realize that people feel particularly impassioned about amphibians,” said Rep. Gary Howell, R-North Branch, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “I have great faith in the scientific study conducted by the Natural Resources Commission.”

The bill by Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, eliminates the state’s restriction on hunting frogs during the winter.

Spearing frogs, or “gigging,” is a “time-honored tradition,” according to a House Fiscal Agency analysis. But it’s becoming less popular because of short hunting seasons and the prohibition on shining a flashlight onto unsuspecting amphibians at night.

The DNR commission would still set hunting seasons, although the department could issue permits to do so at any time of the year “for scientific or experimental purposes,” the analysis said.

The Senate passed the bill 29-8 in June. On Thursday it was sent back to the Senate to be enrolled in its records and is headed for Gov. Rick Snyder’s office.

“I am not morally opposed to frog hunting,” said House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-Dewitt, who voted for the bill. “Senator Booher introduced the bill. You’d have to ask him why he decided to deal with it.”