The northern leopard frog is considered a species at risk in Alberta, but conservationists hope it will make a comeback in the Waterton lakes area, with a little help.
The Waterton Biosphere Reserve Association is asking people to report sightings of the frog on its website and is looking for tips on good amphibian habitat.
“We like to find out about current and past occurrences of northern leopard frog and trying to find out if there’s a place people remember them being in recent history, because most of the provincial data, it kind of peters out around 2012 that they’ve had sightings down in this area,” said Nora Manners, the executive director of the association.
The frog population declined precipitously in the ’70s and ’80s.
The association’s efforts are part of an attempt to build on the success of a Parks Canada initiative from earlier this year where the agency re-populated a number of carefully selected ponds in the Waterton area with northern leopard frog eggs.
It says the species once played a vital role in Waterton Lakes National Park ecosystem and it wants to bring back a breeding population.
No one from Parks Canada was available for an interview on Tuesday.
‘Wonderful, fabulous success’
Calgary Zoo ecologist Lea Randall says disease, loss of wetlands, and the higher frequency of drought were all factors in the loss of the frogs in the Waterton area, but she’s heartened by the early success of the Parks Canada program.
“I believe this year they found natural wild breeding at three of their five re-introduction sites, which is wonderful, fabulous success,” she said.
Randall said amphibian re-introductions tend to have about a 40 per cent success rate.
“So the fact that they’ve had evidence of successful over-wintering, and the frogs have managed to make it to at least a breeding age, and they had successful reproduction in the wild this year — those are basically the hallmarks of a successful reintroduction,” she said.
Manners said her group just wants to better understand the habitat that supports the frogs so that they can better plan land stewardship.
“Some people view amphibians in general as sort of the canary in the coal mine for riparian areas,” she said.
“If you’re missing a key component of your riparian area then you’re just not quite sure that it’s healthy,” she added. “So, it would be really nice to see those amphibians take their place again in the ecosystem.”
Those who spot a northern leopard frog, or who have suggestions for habitat areas, can get in touch with the Waterton Biosphere Reserve Association at email@example.com.
‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ – Jeremiah 29:11