ENTERPRISE - Frog Boy has been busted.
An entrepreneurial first-grader is now pitted against state game law because the 6-year-old has been told that his lucrative frog-selling venture is illegal.
A story about a business run by Cole Gomes, of the Alder Slope area, had been featured prominently in a recent issue of the Wallowa County Chieftain, a sister paper to The Daily Astorian.
That led to the authorities stepping in to call a halt.
"They said the frogs are on the endangered species list, and he can't even give them away, that they can't be taken off our property," said Julie Montgomery-Gomes, Cole's mother.
Actually, the frogs are on the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife protected wildlife list. But the effect is the same: Cole's frog business has been shut down.
His family received a call from Oregon State Police game officer Mark Knapp saying that Cole had to close his business.
The young man was prospering and happy in his first business, assisted by his big sister Christina Montgomery, when the ax fell.
"Cole couldn't understand it. He was practically in tears all day," said his mother. "He wanted to know if he'd have to give the money back."
At last word, the lad had made about $40 in the short-lived venture, although the final tally may never be known. "He doesn't want to say, now," Julie Montgomery-Gomes said.
There's no indication that authorities plan to cite Cole or confiscate his proceeds.
Soon after Cole's business made news, the Gomes took a few frogs to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. There, district wildlife biologist Vic Coggins identified them as spotted frogs, which are on ODFW's "protected" list and a candidate for the federal endangered species list.
According to ODFW administrative rules, "It is unlawful for any person to hunt, trap, pursue, kill, take, catch, angle for, or have in possession, either dead or alive, whole or in part" a long list of species, including the "spotted frog (Rana pretiosa)."
There is still a dispute, however. When the family researched their frogs on the Internet, they found out that Rana pretiosa is the Oregon spotted frog, which is a candidate for the federal Endangered Species Act list ... and that their amphibious critters are almost certainly Columbia spotted frogs (Rana luteiventris).
Coggins, who is a neighbor on Aspen Grove on Alder Slope, agreed that the animals are Columbia spotted frogs. "I'm very familiar with them. I have them on my place." However, he said, ODFW interprets the protected list to include that species also, "as far as Oregon is concerned."
According to local frog expert Jan Hohmann, Columbia spotted frogs were formerly lumped in with the Rana pretiosa species until they were given their own name.
Coggins said that the population of amphibians all over the world is declining, and the spotted frog population on his own property has been part of a U.S. Forest Service frog-study area.
The biologist expressed regret at the Gomes' famiy's distress, but said it was plain that Cole couldn't be allowed to continue selling his spotted frogs.
Happily, there is a positive epilogue. Cole Gomes is back in the frog-peddling business.
He and his mother walked into the Wallowa County Chieftain newspaper office with a flier advertising the boy's new legal "Frogs for Sale"venture. He's now marketing African water frogs, which he purchased from the WalMart store in La Grande.
You can't keep a good kid down.
Elane Dickenson writes for the Wallowa County Chieftain