After a 50-year absence, endangered frogs call again in Trempealeau County
Volunteer’s discovery of Blanchard’s cricket frogs confirmed
MADISON — For the first time in half a century, the unique clicking call of the Blanchard’s cricket frog has been documented in the marshes of Trempealeau County.
In June 2017, Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist Andrew Badje confirmed that what Wisconsin Frog and Toad Volunteer John Collison heard in Trempealeau County was indeed Blanchard’s cricket frogs making their characteristic call. The call sounds like two ball bearings clicking together at increasing speed and was last reported in 1965.
Photo Credit: DNR
While Blanchard’s cricket frogs were historically abundant in southern Wisconsin in the early 1900s, they have always been rare in the northern edge of their range including in Buffalo, La Crosse, and Trempealeau counties. In those counties and statewide, Blanchard’s cricket frog populations took a precipitous decline somewhere between the 1950s-1980s, and were found only in a handful of sites in southwest Wisconsin by the early 1990s. Explanations for the dramatic decrease include harsh winters, environmental pollutants, and habitat losses. The frog was added to the state endangered species list in 1982.
The frogs were also confirmed in Buffalo County in June, the first documented occurrence in that county in more than 35 years. And earlier this month, Badje documented a Blanchard’s cricket frog population in La Crosse County, nearly 30 years after it was last documented.
“For frog-lovers, these are very welcome discoveries,” says Badje, who works for the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation program.
“They also show how important volunteer involvement in the Wisconsin Frog and Toad survey is to helping DNR detect population trends over time for frogs and to document the possible re-occurrence of species like the Blanchard’s cricket frog 30-plus years later.”
The Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey is the longest running amphibian monitoring project in North America and relies largely on volunteers to collect data on the abundance, distribution and population trends of Wisconsin frogs. The survey marked its 35th anniversary in 2016 and was described in this Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine article along with a summary of frog trends over time.
“We really rely on citizen scientists to not only help monitor our frog populations but to also provide rare species reports and other natural history observations,” says Rori Paloski, a DNR conservation biologist who leads the reptile and amphibian team for DNR’s Natural Heritage Conservation program.
Badje says it is still too early to tell if the Trempealeau, La Crosse, and Buffalo County discoveries are signs the Blanchard’s frogs are making a comeback in Wisconsin. Their re-discovery, however, suggests the frogs may have expanded into those areas from a nearby Minnesota population.
“Continued surveying on Wisconsin routes nearby will continue to tell if the species is expanding its range here,” he says. “They certainly weren’t here back when we completed surveys in the region in 2012, and didn’t show up on the radar here until 2015 on a Wisconsin Frog and Toad survey.”
People interested in helping fund work to monitor Blanchard’s cricket frogs over the long-term now have a new option. The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin recently launched the Wisconsin Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Fund (exit DNR), an endowment fund that provides sustainable support to protect Wisconsin’s frogs, turtles, snakes, lizards, and salamanders. Find more information at WisConservation.org (exit DNR).