Manitoba Hydro is no stranger to wildlife calls, but this time, workers at the massive Keeyask Generating Station project have taken a liking to a trio of minuscule friends.
Three small tree frogs were discovered inside the powerhouse building at the site in northern Manitoba — and now, Hydro workers are caring for them until they can be safely released into the wild once again.
“One of our contractors who was working on the project noticed one and thought ‘this is a little bit odd,'” Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen explains.
Hydro workers contacted the wildlife biologist on contract for the project, who said all frogs should definitely be in hibernation right now.
But he added, different species of frogs hibernate in different ways, so he had to see a picture of the frog to identify it.
That sent workers on the hunt to find the frog once again — and this time, they discovered not one, but three.
Surviving a northern Manitoba winter is nearly impossible for this species — but Owen has a theory as to how they got inside.
“These frogs had fallen asleep for the winter inside or beside some equipment that was being brought into the powerhouse,” Owen explains. “Then they awoke from hibernation, and found the best place they could.”
That was under a wooden drain cover.
Boreal chorus frogs usually hibernate close to the ground, with snow on top of them.
But Hydro workers had concerns about setting them free in the middle of winter — especially after using up their energy hopping around inside.
Workers got to work fixing their new guests something to eat — but unfortunately, that was easier said than done.
The frogs feed on small insects — which are considered quite a delicacy in northern Manitoba, where ambient temperatures hover around -25 C this time of year.
“We’ve made them a little habitat for now and Rob is in the process of trying to source some quarter-inch live crickets from a pet store or a zoo, as well as a terrarium to keep them in,” site environmental lead Kim Bryson says.
“As soon as we get the supplies, we’re going to have to feed each frog individually.”
That’s a four-day process for each frog — making sure they’ve eaten enough before they can go back to sleep.
For now, they’re residing in the crisper of a staff fridge.
“This should give them enough energy to survive the winter in the fridge until April,” Bryson says. “Right beside our lunches and soil and water samples.”
Workers are excited to care for them for the next few months, before temperatures warm up enough to be able to set them free.
In the meantime, Hydro is asking Manitobans to give them some ideas for what they should be named.
The site also celebrated a milestone earlier this week when the first of seven units went into service on Tuesday.
When complete, the site will produce 4,400 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually, making it the fourth-largest generating station in Manitoba.
The energy produced at Keeyask will be put to work in the province and also meet the utility’s export commitments, at a construction cost of $8.7 billion.