This week, Wisconsin embarks on a journey into the fascinating world of amphibians. This annual Amphibian Week celebration, initiated by the Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) and its partners, aims to shine a spotlight on the essential role that frogs, toads, newts, and salamanders play in our local ecosystems. It's important for us to remember, that it's not just about admiring our unique and necessary, slightly slimy friends; it's about understanding, appreciating, and, most importantly, safeguarding these remarkable creatures.

Wisconsin boasts 12 species of frogs and 7 species of secretive salamanders. Among them are familiar faces we all know like the American Toad, Green Frog, and Eastern Tiger Salamander. However, some dwell in the shadows, like the elusive Four-toed Salamander and the endangered Blanchard's Cricket Frog. While their appearances and habitats may vary, each species contributes uniquely to the local ecosystems that sustain our natural world.

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These amphibians aren't just charismatic inhabitants of our wetlands and forests; they are indicators of ecosystem health. With their permeable skin and amphibious lifestyles, they are exceptionally sensitive to environmental changes and pollutants. Their presence—or absence—can serve as a barometer of the overall well-being of our natural landscapes, waterways, and woods. As indicator species, their populations can reflect the health of our planet as a whole. By protecting them, we are not only preserving biodiversity, but also safeguarding the quality of our air, water, and soil.

Tom Drake
Tom Drake
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Throughout Amphibian Week, Wisconsin residents are encouraged to take meaningful actions to support these creatures. From avoiding the use of harmful chemicals in yards to creating inviting habitats with "toad abodes" and water sources, every effort counts. Simple things like driving cautiously near wetlands and helping amphibians in distress are also small yet impactful ways to contribute.

Amphibian Week is also about recognizing their immense ecological significance. Amphibians serve as nature's pest controllers, devouring countless insects, including disease-bearing mosquitoes. Their voracious appetites for insects provide a natural form of pest control, with some species of Salamander consuming almost 400 mosquito larvae daily. This not only regulates insect populations but mitigates the spread of mosquito-borne illness and reduces our reliance on chemical pesticides. It's possible that in some areas, amphibians could likely get close to eating 1 million mosquitoes in total each night. Additionally, an amphibians' ability to prey on crop pests; including soybean pests, presents an eco-friendly alternative to our conventional pest management strategies.

Northern Leopard Frog floating at the surface of the water.
Credit: Paul Reeves Photography Northern Leopard Frog
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They are also invaluable in medical research, with their skin secretions holding the potential for treating various human ailments. Frog skin and toxins house a treasure trove of bioactive compounds, with applications ranging from pain management to cancer treatment. From inhibiting HIV infection to pioneering pregnancy detection methods, amphibians continue to inspire and advance biomedical research.

Credit: Canva American Toad
Credit: Canva
American Toad
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As we navigate the challenges posed by habitat loss and pollution, the importance of protecting Wisconsin's amphibians cannot be overstated. These guardians of the wetlands are more than just inhabitants; they are stewards of our ecosystems. As we celebrate another Amphibian Week, let us carry forward the spirit of appreciation and conservation, ensuring that future generations can also revel in the symphony of croaks, chirps, and clicks echoing through our marshes and woodlands.

Wisconsin's Frog and Salamander Populations:

Frogs:

  • American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus): Common
Credit: Canva
Credit: Canva
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  • American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus): Common
  • Blanchard's Cricket Frog (Acris blanchardi): Endangered
  • Boreal Chorus Frog (Pseudacris maculata): Common
Credit: Canva
Credit: Canva
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  • Cope's Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis): Common
  • Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor): Common
Credit: Canva
Credit: Canva
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  • Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans): Common
  • Mink Frog (Lithobates septentrionalis): Special Concern
  • Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens): Common
Credit: Canva
Credit: Canva
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  • Pickerel Frog (Lithobates palustris): Special Concern
  • Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer): Common
Credit: Canva
Credit: Canva
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  • Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus): Common
Credit: Canva
Credit: Canva
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Salamanders:

  • Blue-spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale): Common
Credit: Canva
Credit: Canva
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  • Eastern Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens): Common
  • Eastern Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus): Common
  • Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum): Common
  • Four-toed Salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum): Special Concern
Credit :Canva
Credit :Canva
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  • Mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus): Common
  • Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum): Common
attachment-Eastern Tiger Salamander
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Let's continue to champion the cause of amphibian conservation, for in their protection lies the preservation of our planet's intricate balance of life. And our pesky insect population control rests in their sometimes slimy, always tiny, hands.

Photos: Governor Dodge State Park, Wisconsin

Photos: Early Spring In Governor Dodge State Park, Wisconsin

Gallery Credit: Tom Ehlers

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