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Thread: ON Press: Recovery project aims to keep mottled creatures from croaking

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    Default ON Press: Recovery project aims to keep mottled creatures from croaking

    [News Editor note: There was a CTV-Vancouver video news report on the same story last night]

    GLOBE AND MAIL (Toronto, Ontario) 12 August 09 Recovery project aims to keep mottled creatures from croaking: Oregon spotted frogs - wiped out in California and nearly extinct in B.C. - will be released into wetlands where they can thrive (Wendy Stueck)
    Vancouver: For much of the day yesterday, Andrea Gielens helped volunteers mark and weigh dozens of Oregon spotted frogs, mottled creatures from five to 10 centimetres long that once thrived in marshy grasslands from California to British Columbia.
    The frog has disappeared from California and is scarce in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, where it is found in a handful of places in the Fraser Valley and where Ms. Gielens is part of a recovery project aimed at saving it from extinction.
    Since 2002 the project has resulted in the release of hundreds of Oregon spotted frogs into Fraser Valley wetlands. The spawn is collected in the spring, the tadpoles are raised in sheltered conditions over the summer, and young frogs are released in protected areas in the fall.
    The same pattern will be followed this year, with a couple of wrinkles. The Lower Mainland's recent heat wave resulted in a growth spurt among the captive frogs, resulting in an earlier-than-usual release this week.
    As well, about 40 frogs kept behind until September will be fitted with electronic transmitters that will allow Ms. Gielens and other researchers to track them after they are released.
    "We don't know a lot about what they do after they are released," said Ms. Gielens, husbandry co-ordinator for B.C.'s Oregon Spotted Frog Recovery Program, said this week from the Mountain View Conservation and Breeding Centre near Fort Langley, where the frogs were raised.
    The young frogs being released this week are too small to be fitted with transmitters, but the ones being kept until September will be large enough to accommodate a tracking device, said Ms. Gielens, who plans to use data from the frogs as part of her research toward a master's degree in environmental management.
    Biologists already know the Oregon spotted frog - once confused with the much more common Columbia spotted frog - is in dire shape as a result of habitat loss and predation by non-native species such as the bullfrog, an import from Eastern Canada.
    Roads, agriculture and urban development have wiped out ponds and streams once frequented by the Oregon spotted frog.
    By the time the recovery project kicked off in 1999, there were only an estimated 300 Oregon spotted frogs in B.C., a fraction of the hundreds of thousands that once inhabited the west coast of North America. Today, despite releases of juvenile frogs every year since 2002, that number remains about the same, because habitat continues to disappear even as captive-raised frogs are being released, Ms. Gielens said. The frogs gravitate to temporary ponds, such as the ones that form after rainstorms, and so are vulnerable to even small-scale construction or development.
    The Oregon Spotted Frog Recovery Program involves Mountain View, the Vancouver Aquarium, the Greater Vancouver Zoo and Fraser Valley native bands.
    Disappearing frogs are a global concern. Worldwide, about 100 species have gone extinct since the 1980s, says Kerry Kriger, an environmental scientist and founder of non-profit group Save the Frogs, who is to speak in Vancouver today.
    "They are disappearing at a rapid rate, even though they've been around for about 250 million years in their current form," Mr. Kriger said. "They are very strong creatures. They outlived the dinosaurs, and yet in the past half century a third of them are on the verge of extinction." Frogs eat mosquitoes and ticks that carry infectious diseases, provide food for birds and other predators, are used extensively in medical research and play an as-yet-unknown role in broader ecosystems, Mr. Kriger said.
    Projects such as the Oregon spotted frog recovery effort are important because frogs are exceptionally sensitive to loss of habitat.
    "Frogs don't move very fast," Mr. Kriger said. "So if something goes wrong in one location, they're pretty much gone."

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