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'Frog Day' at Condon Work Center

Kem Trice, left, scoops up a fron while Jenny Trice, Callie Trice and Jesse Stevenson wait anxiously for the capture. S. Vernon photo








Jenny Trice tries her hand at scooping up tadpoles at a Swan Valley pond during Frod Day last week. S. Vernon photo





by Suzanne Vernon
For the Pathfinder
June 18, 1998

More than thirty people donned their hip waders and rubber boots and headed for local swamps and ponds last week to look for frogs, toads, salamanders, snakes and turtles.

It was Frog Day at the Condon Work Center, an event sponsored by the Flathead National Forest and the Swan Ecosystem Management and Learning Center. Fisheries biologist Beth Gardner was in charge of activities.

"It was very successful," Gardner said, explaining that volunteers scouted nearly 30 ponds and counted lots of spotted frogs and garter snakes, and lesser amounts of chorus frogs, black toads and long-toed salamanders. "It was data that I wanted to see," she said.

The last time the Forest Service held a Frog Day in the Swan was in 1995. Biologists nationwide have been gathering information about amphibians and reptiles in response to scientific reports of declining populations of frogs and toads.

Garnder mentioned that volunteers found very few toads during last week's outing.

"That concerns me," she said.

Kerwin Werner, one of Montana's foremost experts on amphibians and a professor at Salish Kootenai College in the Mission Valley, helped count frogs near Condon this year. He told volunteers that scientists lack good information about Montana's amphibians and reptiles. "It's not a group that has been studied a lot," he said. Events such as Frog Day may help researchers better understand worldwide declines in frog and toad populations.

Black toads and leopard frogs are two species in Montana that concern scientists. The toads have been petitioned to be listed as a threatened species elsewhere in the U.S. Researchers are finding fewer and fewer black toads every year in western Montana.

Leopard frogs are also declining. Twenty five years ago leopard frogs were common throughout western Montana. In 1995 when Werner checked 28 sites where leopard frogs historically lived, he found the species in only one area.

Several school children participated in the recent Frog Day activities. Kem Trice, and her daughters Jenny, 8, and Callie, 6, found a few frogs and turtles when they explored ponds in the Cold Creek area.

"I want my kids to grow up learning about wildlife," Kem Trice said last week, adding that she wouldn't mind getting more involved with outdoor projects at the Swan Ecosystem Center at Condon. "I don't want my kids to be part of the problemI want them to be part of the solution," she said.

Her daughters learned how to tell the difference between chorus frogs and spotted frogs, even in the tadpole stage, during Frog Day activities. But there was one critter they didn't care to see. "I don't want to see a snake," young Callie Trice said, emphatically shaking her head. Her sister and mother agreed. Frog hunting is fun, they said, but they'd rather leave the snake hunting to the biologists.


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