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Wisconsin needs volunteers for frog surveys

Citizen surveys are an important tool to keep up on frog populations across the state.

wisconsin spring peeper frog
Spring peepers like this one are beginning to call now, signaling the need for volunteers for the Wisconsin Frog & Toad Survey. (Photo by A.B. Sheldon courtesy of Wisconsin DNR)

Frogs will soon begin croaking across the Northland and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources needs volunteers to lend their ears for help with two different frog and toad surveys.

One survey requires volunteers to drive along set routes three nights during the frog mating season.

The other is a phenology survey, aimed at understanding how climate change may be affecting frogs, which people can complete at home or at a nearby wetland, lake or river.

“The information volunteers provide is essential to monitoring and conserving frogs and toads in Wisconsin,” said Andrew Badje, a DNR Conservation Biologist who coordinates both surveys for the department’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program.

Since both surveys occur at night, after school and when the workday is done, the two surveys are family-friendly and can be completed while social distancing.


New volunteers can learn the different calls to identify the species, as well as learn more about frog and toad biology and ecology, by watching a series of short videos on all 12 frog and toad species in Wisconsin at wiatri.net/inventory/frogtoadsurvey/WIfrogs/SpAccounts.cfm .

The Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey is conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey that started in the 1980s surveying pre-set driving routes in response to known and suspected declines of numerous Wisconsin frog species, including the northern leopard frog, American bullfrog, pickerel frog and Blanchard’s cricket frog.

Known as North America’s longest running citizen science frog calling survey, volunteers have logged 10,108 survey nights and 99,452 site visits since the survey began.

“Over the years, these citizen scientists have helped DNR conservation biologists define the distribution, status, and population trends of all 12 frog and toad species in the state,” Badje said.

Volunteers survey one night each in early spring, late spring and summer and make 10 stops per night spending five minutes at each site. They identify the species calling and record that information and the relative abundance of each species.

There are roughly two driving routes per county and many Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey routes are still available for 2021, including one each in Douglas and Bayfield counties as of Tuesday. For more information on the Wisconsin Frog and Toad survey go to wiatri.net/inventory/frogtoadsurvey and click on Volunteer.

The newer phenology surveys help monitor frog breeding seasons in relation to fluctuating spring weather conditions. Volunteers select one site to monitor throughout the spring and early summer and spend five minutes per night, as often as possible, recording data.

You can find a manual to download at wiatri.net/inventory/frogtoadsurvey/Volunteer/phenology.cfm .


For more information, email WFTS@wisconsin.gov .

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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