Not easy being green

DNR herpetologist Carol Hall says Minnesota has 11 species of frogs and 3 of toads.  MPR photo/Dan Olson

I have a new found respect for frogs and toads due in good measure to Carol Hall, a herpetologist who works for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Hall says amphibians are good indicators of the health of our environment.

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A robust frog and toad population indicates they have a more or less decent habitat for breeding and over wintering, but Hall says frogs are a favorite fast food snack for lots of critters and their survival is constantly threatened by weather, habitat loss and disease.

There’ll be more about frogs and toads in my new Minnesota Sounds and Voices report today as part of All Things Considered.  I headed out recently into the wilds of western Hennepin County with a Minnesota frog and toad survey volunteer.

Ok, it’s time for a little more frog eye candy.  Here’s a dandy shot Carol grabbed a couple years ago near Duluth of a wood frog.

The Wood Frog: June 2011, central St. Louis County (photographer Carol Hall, MN DNR)

Red flags went up two decades ago here and around the world, when researchers encountered a worrisome number of deformed frogs and also as populations in some parts of the world plummeted. Minnesota’s frog and toad population is, with a couple of exceptions, stable.

That’s the trend reflected in a 19 year long statewide survey of frogs and toads. Each spring, volunteers fan out to listening sites across the state and note the calls they hear from Minnesota’s 11 frog species and 3 toad species.

The investigation over the deformities is ongoing and appears to include many factors including climate change, farm chemicals and disease.

Carol Hall takes part in an even bigger effort, the Minnesota biological survey, begun in 1987. She and others are cataloging literally every living creature in the state.

A couple of weeks ago, for example, Carol was wranglin’ bull snakes in southeastern Minnesota:

Dan: Carol, how do you catch a bull snake?

Carol: Well, Dan, you reach down and pick ’em up….

This week, she’s somewhere along the Minnesota River tracking a colony of soft shelled turtles.

In the meantime, the weather is finally warming to a point where Hall and others are hearing a rising chorus of frogs.