This has been common knowledge for years. In May 2004, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a front-page article about what it called "weirdly bloated cartoon frogs." The article said city and state officials had "known of the clawed frog situation for some time." But after Young retired, nobody else took up the banner of complete frog eradication. So it has been left to Montana to purge the frogs each year.

It's a Sisyphean task, because the pond is choked with two other unabated invasive species. For the past year, visitors to the pond have seen what looks like an algae-infested swamp strewn with occasional castaway bottles and plastic wrappers. The green film isn't algae. It's duckweed, a tiny plant that covers the surface of the pond. The duckweed has been joined by parrot feather, a lacy, fernlike weed that sticks up above the water.

Nonnative plants don't normally count as a crisis in Golden Gate Park — it's largely former sand dunes now covered in grass, after all. But the duckweed makes it impossible to conduct the annual frog-skimming exercise, because the seine nets get bogged down in weeds. "You can't even swing a net in that stuff," Montana says.

San Francisco rules about using herbicides make getting rid of the plants no simple matter. After getting permission from the Department of the Environment, Montana found the Sonar brand aquatic herbicide he'd bought wasn't working right, so now he needs to consult with a company rep before possibly applying the stuff again. Of course, fixing the duckweed problem only enables the underlying cycle of futility — Montana will be able to skim off frogs with his net, but the ones left behind will spend the rest of the year repopulating the pond.

Young thinks such half-measures are a waste of time and money.

"They could have done this for a fifth of the cost they do every year they do seining the frogs," he says. "I watched as they wade around in the muck, and frogs were zipping ahead of them. It's ridiculous. We had a pump that would have drained the pond in three and a half hours."

Mills said he could easily raise a team of volunteers to get rid of the frogs, but says he cannot get permission from park officials.

"I'm writing a book on the damned thing," Young says, "about the inefficiency of the whole operation."

In San Francisco, that genre could fill a library.

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