Frogs are one of the most diverse forms of herpetofauna in the province of Ontario, boasting more species than turtles, lizards, or salamanders. Yet, there is no outreach education effort solely devoted to these amphibians within the province.
This is unfortunate as many frog species are threatened with extinction. Furthermore, the endangerment of frogs is not exclusive to regions outside of Ontario. Several of the province’s native species are in serious decline.
The Great Lake/St. Lawrence population (east and north of Toronto) of the Western Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata) is listed as Threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act. The Fowler’s Toad (Anaxyrus fowleri) is even more at risk, being listed as Endangered. Worse still, the diminutive Northern Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans) is considered extinct from Ontario.
More of Ontario’s frogs could also be disappearing, as many species have not yet been properly assessed.
This is what inspired me to launch my Save All Frogs project. With this effort I will be educating individuals throughout the province on why frogs are disappearing, what roles they play in the environment, and most importantly how they can help.
I will be emphasizing as I visit schools, camps, conservation areas and other venues that individuals can become involved with the recovery of frogs via behavioral changes, informed decision making, environmental stewardship actions, and habitat management efforts.
Education has been noted as an effective conservation tool by numerous groups and organizations. The Amphibian and Reptile Conservancy (ARC) states that it recognizes the need to increase awareness, appreciation, and understanding of amphibians, reptiles and their habitats, which can then enhance conservation actions and stewardship practices. The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust also proclaims that education is one of the most important tools in the long-term conservation of amphibians and reptiles. By raising awareness, enhancing knowledge and encouraging people to take action, real steps can be made towards conserving amphibian and reptile species.
This is why I am committed to educating the public on the plight of frogs!
Update from the corner of Bleecker Street and Central Avenue in Jersey City Heights!
Jersey City’s adopt a catch basin program is thriving! It’s very simple. Sign up to take care of a catch basin (storm drain) and the City of Jersey City will assign an artist to paint something original for you. It’s a win-win situation! The city receives help from the public to keep these drains clear of garbage and snow/ice in the winter and we get beautiful artwork that passers by admire. In addition, because they are of an environmental nature, it helps remind the public to keep the streets clean.
Last year I noticed a beautiful artwork done by artist Swati Rastogi and requested her as the artist for my second corner (opposite last year’s frog). I was so excited when she contacted me this week because it was time for her to paint the corner.
Here’s what Swati wrote about this project:
“I never knew what a Salamander was until I was asked by the city to paint one at the corner of Central Avenue & Bleecker Street in Jersey City.
Susan Newman who adopted this catch basin has proudly named it “Biodiversity Matters” and is actively letting the residents know about the program.
Honestly this “adopt a catch basin” campaign is making the city much more vibrant and creating awareness for how important it is to keep the sewers clean.
Thank you for choosing me as your artist!.”
– Swati Rastogi
I wrote about this program last year in greater detail, so check out the article about the program and why it’s so important.
“You would think there would be something in place,” said Vance T. Vredenburg, a biologist at San Francisco State University. “We really need a government agency at some level to take action and do something.”
…The pet trade brings huge numbers of salamanders into the United States. Fish and Wildlife Service records show that about 780,000 salamanders were imported from 2010 to 2014. Dr. Vredenburg and his colleagues found that 98 percent of the imported animals were native to Asia.
We have been watching Chytrid Fungus, or Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd for short) wipe out many species of frogs. Humans have helped spread this disease around the world and now we have an opportunity, if we act quickly to help the salamanders.
We’re worried about the Asian fungus that causes the disease “Bsal” which has already reached Europe, wiping out 96 percent of fire salamanders in the Netherlands. Now, researchers have determined that the fungus will spread like wildfire if it reaches North America, and they’re calling for an immediate ban on all salamander imports.
Fire Salamander from Wikipedia Commons.
Below are a series of articles on this topic from the past week:
Below is a written interview with Ilah Rose Hickman, who fought for the Idaho State Amphibian, the Idaho Giant Salamander. I was also fortunate to interview Ilah on my Suzy Brandtastic podcast series. Since writing this interview the bill passed and Idaho now has a State Amphibian!
Please tell us a bit about your mission and goals…
I started my legislative journey in 4th grade when we learned about Idaho history in social studies. In the unit on Idaho state symbols, our teacher gave us an assignment to create a new symbol and then write a mock letter to our legislator and ask them to support the proposed symbol. When I went home that day I told my Mom I wanted to propose a new symbol for real, and not just for a mock assignment. So that’s how it all began!
What is your educational background and what lead to this mission?
I am now in 8th grade at Les Bois Junior High in Boise Idaho. Ever since that fourth grade assignment, I have been determined to have a new state symbol designated in Idaho. In fourth grade I learned that many other states had a state amphibian or reptile designated, but Idaho did not. So I decided to research amphibians and reptiles, and also found out who my representatives were in the legislature and wrote to them. My district Senator met with me in the summer before 5th grade and recommended I pick one symbol, so after my research I decided to choose the Idaho Giant Salamander as a state amphibian. In 6th grade I had a committee hearing in the House but the bill did not go any further than that. In 7th grade the bill started in the Senate, and it passed all the way through the full Senate but then the House committee ran out of time and I did not get a hearing there.
Now this year the bill was given a committee hearing in January, and they voted against sending it to the full House for a vote. But then last week the committee Chairman called us and said they had “revived” the Bill and yesterday it went to full House for a vote and passed 51-17. Now I am hoping it gets to the Senate before the legislature adjourns this session.
Of the 15 amphibians native to Idaho, I chose the Idaho Giant Salamander because it has “Idaho” in its name, it resides almost exclusively in Idaho (and just a sliver of adjacent Montana) and the marbled brown pattern on the adult’s skin looks like a topographical map of the Idaho Bitterroot mountains. Other native amphibians like frogs and toads are already designated as amphibians in other states, and many of them live in widespread areas beyond Idaho.
What are some challenges you have faced and how did you deal with them?
I have had to learn patience! I have had to wait a whole year multiple times because once the bill “dies” or is “killed” by a committee, you are done for that year and have to wait for the next session. Also, many legislators have said no to my bill. But every time they have said no it has pushed me forward by encouraging me to come back the following year and be better prepared to persuade them better to get an “aye” vote. Last summer I went to a “salamander” camp with a local biology professor and his students to capture, tag, collect data, and release Idaho Giant Salamanders in a stream near the Lochsa River. This really helped me in my testimony to the committee this year. And after the House committee voted against sending it to the full House for a vote this session, I sent letters to a lot of 4th grade teachers in the districts of those legislators who voted no, and told the about the bill, their legislator’s “no” vote, and reasons they could support the bill and asked them to write their legislators. I think that kind of statewide support from other students and educators helped a bill like mine.
What can people do to help? Donate and contribute to your cause? Other ideas?
Throughout this 5 year process, I have had many students, teachers, and other residents write letters to the representatives of their districts in support of this bill. Even young students in first or second grade have drawn pictures of salamanders and sent them to their legislators. If someone lives in Idaho they can write their legislator and ask them to support the Bill. I also have a Facebook page set up to keep people (in and out of Idaho) up to date on what’s happening with the Bill.
How do you reach your targeted audience? Is it through your website, advertising or social media or another route? Which is most effective and why?
I use my Facebook page to communicate with supporters, and over the years I have emailed lots of teachers and asked them to support the bill by having their students write to their legislators. At my own school I have had a ballot box in the library, and my Earth Science class wrote letters of support. I visited a 4th grade class here in Boise and told them about my experience, and I’ve been interviewed on a few radio stations here in Idaho to talk about my bill.
How do you keep the audience engaged over time?
Each year I have learned more about the legislative process, the politics involved, and I keep learning more and more about the salamander as well. Scientists and other amphibian fans contact me with research, stories and other data that has helped me strengthen my arguments for this bill, and I try to communicate all of this to the supporters of the bill by Facebook, and in my testimony, and other interviews.
Tell us about your events around the world and some of the campaigns you have started.
What is in the works for the future? What haven’t you yet tackled, but will want to do soon?
This week I am working hard to get the Bill to the Senate floor before they adjourn for the year. I am 50 percent done and am hoping to get it passed this year!!! If the Bill does not get through the Senate, I will be back next year. I also hope to get to go back to “salamander camp” in the summer with the biology professor because that was so educational and a lot of fun!
Would you like to add anything not discussed above?
I have been passionate about this project because once I begin something, I like to see it through to the end. And so I want to keep going with this until the Bill passes. I also really love all animals
and learning about them. And once I learned about the Idaho Giant Salamander, I just thought it was such a cool animal because “amphibian” means double life, and this one is so special and unique to Idaho. Salamanders in general are valuable in areas like medical research (because they regenerate lost limbs),
climate control (because they contribute to the forest carbon cycle), and are different than any other animal state symbol we already have.
This report comes from Frances in Southern Oregon.
My two year old pond seems to have attracted these salamanders. I am in Southern Oregon, near Klamath Falls, and on the California border. I have been told they are Tiger Salamanders, but they do not have any bright coloring.
They are mottled and striped, and the largest one I have seen in my leaf trap was about 14″ long. The pond is about two and a half feet deep, so I can’t see how many there are, and if there are any of my goldfish left. Some of the fish were about 6 – 8 inches long when I last spotted them in late summer.
The salamander in the photo was on my driveway in early February of this year. I am pretty sure they are eating all the frogs we had. I am not hearing any croaking, and the two that frequented the rim of my hot tub are not around now. I am not sure if there is anything that can be done to balance things a bit, or if some of them are becoming permanent pond dwellers and not losing their gills, as I understand happens sometimes. Do you have any suggestions or ideas? Thank you. If these are some kind of hybrid, I don’t know how good they are for the environment.
I sent this query along to a few experts and here are their responses:
Your email/inquiry about salamanders was forwarded to me from Susan Newman at Frogs Are Green.
The salamander in the photo you sent is indeed a Tiger Salamander. They are variable in color, so if you Google searched them, it is possible that you came across images that didn’t resemble this individual salamander. Tiger Salamanders are native to Oregon so pose no environmental threat. On the contrary, salamanders are indicators of a healthy environment!
You also mentioned some concern for your frogs. Tiger Salamanders may occasionally take frogs, however, they primarily feed on insects and invertebrates. In fact, Tiger Salamander tadpoles (or larvae) prey on mosquito larvae and therefore help keep the number of these pests down! As such, I wouldn’t consider them a real threat to the frogs.
Due to the benefits they provide I hope you will accept the presence of these salamanders. If you want to learn about things you can to do help them (as they are both amphibians such efforts will also benefit frogs too) please visit the following: Save The Salamanders – How You Can Help
I asked Matt why the frogs may have disappeared?
Frances mentioned she didn’t hear the frogs croaking – perhaps the frogs are indeed still around but merely not singing at this time. I believe most frogs sing seasonally, or only at certain times. I have a backyard pond with frogs, and sometimes I may not see them for days on end, and suddenly they will reappear.
I have also read that cats will kill frogs, so they, or other predators (birds, snakes), may have taken them.
These are all plausible causes, however, I can’t say for certain. The reality is, any backyard pond (whether natural or human-man) that has animals in it will also attract various predators.
Agreed! It’s a Blotched Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma mavortuim melanostictum). There is a small, known population (native) in southern Oregon near the border. Like all tiger salamander species these will eat anything that fits in their mouths including invertebrates, lizards, mice, snakes, frogs, tadpoles, small fish, and other salamanders. Since they are a native predator in your area they may initially cause a decrease in the local frog population but once they become established in your pond their numbers will most likely balance out with the frogs.
Encouraging newts to your garden pond will add life and color that can be seen for much of the year. You should never remove them from the wild but there are a few steps you can take to invite them to take up residence in your pond.
Newts not only add life to the pond, they also eat algae. So they provide a natural solution to a common problem. As they are most active during the warmer months of the year, when algae is rifer, they can be a real help. Of course other natural remedies such as Barley Straw will help too.
The best way to invite newts into your garden is to create the ideal habitat. A natural pond without fish is the best environment, as they will eat newt eggs and spawn.
Build a loose rockery around or near the pond. This will provide them with shelter to live and breed. The cool, damp, atmosphere is ideal for newts, and will encourage slugs and insects, a good food source. If you want to feed the newts, then you can add bloodworm, daphnia or brine shrimp to the water, a good retailer will have a wide range of pond foods.
Adding plants such as water mint or water forget-me-nots are small but have wide leaves which are perfect for newts to lay and hide their eggs in. Reed plants are also great to promote natural behaviors. The eggs have a jelly like texture, which newts wrap up in leaves to protect them.
Newts are most active from March/April, and you should see babies appear from June to August. From then on, you will notice that they start to disappear, as they mostly hibernate throughout the winter, until around February. During this time, try not to rearrange the rockery or do too much work around the area, as this will disturb the newts.
Children will no doubt be very interested in the new addition to your pond, and it’s a great way to promote a love of nature. However always supervise your children around these slippery creatures, and ensure that if they do pick a newt up, that they do so very gently and with wet hands. Don’t allow the newts to be taken away from the area, or held for more than a few minutes.
You may find that not only newts arrive, but that frogs and toads appear too. As they thrive in similar environments. They can live well together and create a beautifully natural area of wildlife in your garden.
Don’t worry if newts don’t start to arrive, despite the lovely home you have created. It may take time for them to appear and breed. If your local environment has changed, such as new roads, building sites etc., this may affect the migration of newts too. Leaving the pond and its inhabitants to its own devices will encourage the most natural behaviors and results.