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Call of the Wild

By Jane Whitmore - | Mar 25, 2021

Okay all you watchers of the wild – it’s time to get prepared for the season of Spring peepers!

That’s what some of us call frogs and toads – peepers.

The Iowa DNR is hosting training workshops for anybody interested in getting involved in the Frog and Toad Call Survey. Training is mandatory and three online workshops are available.

Here’s what the DNR has to say:

The Frog and Toad Call Survey has a long tradition, starting in 1991. That was the first year a troop of community scientists learned the frog and toad calls and trooped out into the night to visit wetlands across the state. Over the years, volunteers have collected data on over 2,200 wetlands and provided an incredible record of frog and toad activity.

Program coordinator Stephanie Shepherd explains, “It’s rare to have such a broad set of data collected over so many years on ONE species, much less a whole group of vulnerable species.”

To get involved with the frog and toad call survey you will need an adventurous spirit and the interest to learn up to 16 frog and toad breeding calls.

Wait! What? There are 16 different frog and toad breeding calls? No doubt we’ve heard a couple different frog croaks (excuse me, “calls”) in our own back yard. When you venture to the swampy areas, we can easily hear many different calls. But 16? Wow!

The DNR doesn’t say they are sending people to swampy areas to listen for the frogs and toads. They refer to survey routes. You can find the survey routes on the DNR website. And, if there isn’t a survey route near you, the DNR gives you the latitude to make up your own survey route.

The DNR says that the time commitment for conducting the survey and submitting data is roughly 10 hours total between April and July each year and will require being out after dark for roughly 2 hours during each survey period.

We have had (and still do have) family members participate in the big bird count each year. However, I don’t recall anyone in the family participating in a frog and toad call survey. Perhaps they just didn’t know about it.

That’s not to say we don’t think about the frogs. My mother’s family was split between Iowa and northern Minnesota. Each Spring, Aunt Gloria (in northern Minnesota) would call my mother (in Iowa) to have her listen to frogs chorusing from the pond. She would stand on the deck, hold her phone out toward the pond and we could hear the frog serenade from 500 miles up north. A ritual of Spring.

Are you ready to join the 30th Anniversary Frog and Toad Survey? Anyone truly interested can direct questions to Stephanie Shepherd at vwmp@dnr.iowa.gov. Remember, you have to get online training. The Zoom workshops are March 27 or March 29 or April 6. And there is a $5 fee to cover workshop materials.