With the whir of a frog, spring is here

Not the most common frog, spring peepers can still be found in southeastern Minnesota, according to the DNR. Photo provided

Not the most common frog, spring peepers can still be found in southeastern Minnesota, according to the DNR. Photo provided

When people first hear the whirring and chirping of frogs and toads each year, many will simply think the season is growing longer and warmer.

Amphibian enthusiasts around the state who have volunteered for the Department of Natural Resources, however, will be giddy. That’s because many of them are again participating in the DNR’s Minnesota Frog and Toad Calling Survey (MFTCS), which is part of the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program. Since 1996, Minnesotans have participated in the survey, which not only helps track frog and toad populations but provides valuable information about wetland conditions.

Patiently waiting for frog and toad calls may not seem like the most exciting way to spend a spring or summer’s evening in Minnesota. Then again, those who have participated in the survey think differently. Once some have tried it, they’re hooked, said Heidi Cyr, DNR frog and toad survey volunteer coordinator. Many people make sure to lock in their survey routes each year before someone else can.

“I have so many people coming back year after year,” Cyr said. “And they have a great time doing it. It seems so simple, but people just love it. Whenever they get their packet in the mail, they say they know spring is on the way, so they’re always happy to hear from me.”

In southwest Minnesota, however, the DNR has struggled to fill routes. Of about 250 statewide routes, the DNR typically fills about 200, Cyr said. Some nearby routes are still open this year, including ones in Clarks Grove, Ellendale and Cherry Grove. Once again, the nearest routes, Moscow and Grand Meadow, are already filled.

Participants in the survey receive packets in the mail when they sign up. The packets include study materials, route information and requirements and a CD with Minnesota’s various frog calls. Each participant must pass the DNR’s frog and toad quiz, which they can take as many times as necessary, before participating in the survey.

“That way, they know what to listen for,” Cyr said.

Each participant conducts listening surveys after dark, three times between April and July on his or her 10-stop route. The three surveys must be conducted between April 15-30, May 20-June 5 and June 25-July 10. The seasonal variations allow for different species of frogs and populations. Participants record their information on datasheets in their volunteer kit.

According to the DNR, Minnesota has 14 species of frogs and toads, and southeastern Minnesota is one of the more diverse regions with American toads, bullfrogs, boreal chorus frogs, wood frogs, green frogs, leopard frogs, gray treefrogs, pickerel frogs, Cope’s gray treefrogs and spring peepers.

Those looking for more information may visit dnr.state.mn.us/reptiles_amphibians/frogs_toads, or pwrc.usgs.gov/naamp.

Anyone interested in learning frog and toad calls and participating in this survey can check the route availability map on the DNR website, choose a route, and call Cyr at 651-259-5107 or email heidi.cyr@state.mn.us.

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