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Wisconsin DNR seeks volunteers for frog and toad surveys

The DNR's Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey is the longest-running citizen science frog calling survey in North America.
Wisconsin DNR
The DNR's Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey is the longest-running citizen science frog calling survey in North America.

Soon the night air will be filled with the sound of spring peepers emerging from hibernation.

As that happens, the Wisconsin DNR is looking for people to help survey what it is they’re hearing.

Wisconsin is home to 12 frog and toad species.

Each spring and summer since 1984, the Wisconsin DNR has asked volunteers to spend some time at night and share which frog calls they can hear.

“We started getting a lot of reports from biologists that some of our frog species were seemingly becoming more rare or absent in certain areas. Ultimately what the DNR decided to do with the help of UW-Stevens Point was to create a volunteer frog monitoring project,” said Andrew Badje, conservation biologist with the DNR Natural Heritage program.

For three nights one week each spring volunteers will drive certain routes jotting down everything they hear and share with the DNR.

It’s gotten so popular in the Northwoods that spots for the driving route are limited in Oneida County.

But Badje says there are other ways to get involved like their phenology survey.

“Volunteers can just kind of listen on their deck at night for a couple minutes at a time once a night or one night every week and just kind of keep track of what they’re hearing,” he said.

The data collected through the surveys help the Wisconsin DNR better understand how frog and toad populations are doing in the state. Most species as of late are doing well.

“It seems to be that like spring peepers, for example, they’ve always been abundant but they’ve been kind of on a slow increase over the last couple decades which is nice to see because they prefer to use those shallower wetlands,” said Badje.

Other species like mink frogs which call the Northwoods home, saw their population decline in the first 20 years of the surveys, but have stabilized in the last twenty.

“It’s not all doom and gloom, but it’s really a good just with the survey and the host of volunteers, we’ve learned a lot about these species and get annual trends and long-term trends.”

You can learn more about the different types of surveys and how to sign up on the DNR’s website.

“It seems to be a really fun opportunity for volunteers that like to be out at night and experience things they may not really see during the day. But a lot of these people can be parents or grandparents that are taking their kids or grandkids out. You can take your friends out. It’s just a lot of different fun things you can do with it on top of just being out there by yourself,” said Badje.

Volunteers have collectively spent more than 10,500 nights surveying 103,400 sites.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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