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Thread: BC Press: Threatened amphibians dodge cattle, boggers'

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    Default BC Press: Threatened amphibians dodge cattle, boggers'

    100 MILE HOUSE FREE PRESS (British Columbia) 04 August 09 Threatened amphibians dodge cattle, boggers' (Laura Kelsey)
    So, I guess the big question is, are they frogs or toads?
    It was 10:32 p.m. on a warm summer night and I was in a 59 Mile cabin with two young, aspiring student biologists. I was there to find out more about and, hopefully, witness for myself the Great Basin Spadefoot.
    I had just arrived and my first question brought puzzled looks to my hosts faces.
    Jocelyn Garner explained the small amphibians have attributes of both frogs and toads, so no one has made the classification yet.
    She said not much is known about spadefoots, who were only discovered in the area in 2006; and, because of their small population, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has them listed as threatened.
    For these reasons, Garner, contracted by the Ministry of Environment, and species technician Jonquil Crosby are immersing themselves in prime spadefoot habitat to find out as much as they can about the small creatures.
    Spadefoots prefer arid grasslands, but it is believed that human encroachment has brought their numbers down. According to the Environment ministry, their habitat is under great pressure, since human beings also enjoy living in warm dry areas. The dry grassland habitat is one of the rarest habitat types in BC, making up only six percent of the provinces land area.
    Their known domain stretches south into the States; and sightings suggest the Green Lake area is the northern-most of their range.
    Whether spadefoots have always been here, undetected, or are moving northward because of climate change or other reasons is one of the animals aspects the spadefoot team are hoping to discover.
    The species name was derived from the small, black spade on the first toe of each hind foot. This unique feature is used as a digging tool, allowing spadefoots to quickly disappear into the soil to hide or rest.
    Habitat assessments and behavioural analyses are all part of their ever-compiling research.
    Theyre constantly surprising us, said Crosby. Well think the ground is too hard and theyll be buried in it. Well think the brush is too thick but theyll be walking through the forest.
    And, although smaller than a human palm in size, the researchers are finding out they aint no slow turtles.
    They can cover some serious ground and can really book it if they want to, said Garner.
    During the day, spadefoots are almost always underground and most active at night when they come out to call for mates, eat and use the darkness to avoid predators. This is why Garner and Crosby must conduct much of their research nocturnally.
    As I felt the urge to suppress fatigue-induced yawns, I wondered how they stay up trekking the countryside.
    Pure enthusiasm keeps us going, replied Garner.
    We left the cabin, driving a few kilometres down the road and through off-roads. Ten minutes into our adventure, Crosby, driving, screeched to a halt.
    Theres a spadefoot on the road.
    Adorned with headlamps, we exited the truck and crouched down to see a small specimen making his way along our path.
    Garner explained they outfit found spadefoots with a radio transmitter, fashioning a small, unimposing harness around their tiny waists. Then, with the help of radio receiver, the researchers track the spadefoots moves.
    The spadefoot has to be a certain size, however, and the road warrior we found was too small.
    We continued to a pre-determined spot and began tracking Donovan, named after Olympic medalist Donavan Bailey because of his speed.
    They explained that staying up late sometimes inspired weird monikers for their study subjects.
    Finding him and marking down coordinates, we continued to an open field where I was surprised to see a sea of eyes reflecting off my head lamp.
    Coughing could be heard, reminiscent of an elderly man.
    Cows, I was told. Lots of them. Mooing erupted as we ventured further into the field and it didnt stop for the rest of the evening.
    Being used to the bovines, Garner and Crosby were unfazed. They were focused and their determination paid off when they found the largest spadefoot they had seen yet.
    They weighed the female, recorded stats and brought out a new transmitter to harness around her surprisingly thin waist.
    It took awhile and, Ill admit, my mind wandered to the cattle gauntlet we had just put ourselves in the middle of; every time I raised my head, the light on my forehead reflected more eyes looking back, mostly mothers and calves.
    But it was a long-horned larger livestock animal that had me a bit worried.
    The researchers were oblivious to these mammals and only had eyes for the robust amphibian they harnessed in their hands.
    In recognition of my visit, they kindly named this spadefoot the fattest one they have ever found Laura. I had mixed feelings about this.
    Leaving Laura the Spadefoot behind, we used the receiver rod to eventually find Danny named for his resemblance to short and stocky Danny DeVito and Grace, who happened to cross the researchers path and grace them with her presence.
    Ministry of Environment senior ecosystem biologist Roger Packham is very happy with the work the student researchers are doing; but, he says, there are some discouraging activities endangering the local batch of spadefoots: mud-bogging, where people take their vehicles off-road to splash through mud puddles, is a popular pastime in prime spadefoot habitat.
    Packham says ponds north and west of 70 Mile hold the largest concentration of spadefoots in the area and mud-bogging is destroying them.
    Lots of spadefoots are being killed by this activity, he said. We just want to get it out that mud-bogging is not something we want to see and is also against the law.
    Packham reminds people that it is an offense to damage Crown land in any way, including mud-bogging, and fines up to $100,000 or a year in jail can result if caught.
    To better the spadefoots chance of survival, a public education campaign has been ongoing in the area; a door-to-door flyer drop, sign placement and spot patrols have been taking place.
    We need to keep in mind spadefoots are living in these ponds and now some of them have been rendered useless for habitat.

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    Default Re: BC Press: Threatened amphibians dodge cattle, boggers'

    Very interesting, considering I also live in B.C. Being where I am and seeing very little wild frogs and toads, I like to read of others' experience. Being a fan of Spadefoot toads, I might just have to take a trip out there and see if I can help!!

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    Founder John's Avatar
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    Default Re: BC Press: Threatened amphibians dodge cattle, boggers'

    They are very interesting little guys but they are very hard to come by when they are not breeding (one of the most challenging groups of frogs to find), so get your skates on.
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