MADISON - Learn to tell a ribbit from a croak and help conserve Wisconsin frogs and toads by listening for their calls this spring to help track their population numbers and trends.
The Department of Natural Resources is now recruiting volunteers for the statewide Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey, one of the nation's oldest and longest running survey for amphibians.
"People often wonder how they can help conserve frogs because they have fond memories of catching frogs in their childhood," says Andrew Badje, a DNR conservation biologist.
"One great way to help is to join the Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey this spring. We're looking for night-loving volunteers who want to listen for frog calls in wetland areas to help us assess how frog populations are doing in Wisconsin.
"It's a fun family event, a way to learn the breeding calls of all the species and a new adventure to enjoy," he says.
Wisconsin has 11 frog species and one toad species, all of which have their own unique breeding calls that echo throughout the state's massive network of wetlands. Volunteers participating in the survey spend one to three hours stopping at 10 locations a night in each of three periods: early spring, late spring and summer. Listening during the three periods helps assure volunteers are surveying frogs during the peak calling windows for each of the 11 frogs and one toad species. Volunteers record the relative abundance of different species' calls and information about the weather conditions at the time.
Look for open routes on the Wisconsin Frog and Toad website (exit DNR) and watch a video about what volunteers do.
Frog and toad populations worldwide have drastically declined in recent decades as a result of pesticides, herbicides and habitat fragmentation. Wetland loss and emerging diseases including the chytrid fungus have taken their toll as well. Wisconsin started organizing volunteers in 1981 for the surveys in response to known and suspected declines in several Wisconsin species, particularly northern leopard frogs, Blanchard's cricket frogs, pickerel frogs and bullfrogs.
"The information volunteers collect helps us determine the status, distribution, and long-term population trends of Wisconsin's frogs and toads," Badje says.
"When volunteers report their survey findings, they have taken proactive steps to catch declines before species levels become too low and subsequently more expensive to manage," he says.
Other frog survey options are available if all routes for the Wisconsin Frog and Toad survey are filled in a particular area or for people who would rather survey a wetland from the comfort of their porch or a park bench at a favorite wetland nearby, Badje says.
A related DNR phenology study is underway to help benefit future conservation work by allowing more insight on the adaptation strategies of frogs. Volunteers select one wetland, lake, or stream of their choice and listen one to seven times a week, for a 5-minute interval. The volunteers record frog calls and weather conditions throughout the frog and toad calling season.
People more interested in simply increasing their knowledge about frogs and toads are invited to visit the Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey website (exit DNR) to view interactive maps showing trends for specific species, watch videos of all the frogs and toads in Wisconsin, and to test their breeding call identification skills by taking a challenging quiz!
FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO SIGN UP FOR THE WISCONSIN FROG & TOAD SURVEY CONTACT: Andrew Badje, 608-266-3336, WFTS@wisconsin.gov; Tara Bergeson, 608-264-6043; Rori Paloski, 608- 264-6040