Spring Peeper Program
The Spring Peeper Program
Frogs and toads play an important role, serving as both prey and predator, in wetland ecosystems and are considered indicators of environmental health. Based on a national study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey's Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) “Trends in Amphibian Occupancy in the United States,” there is an estimated two to three percent decline in frog and toad populations across the Midwest beginning in the 1990’s (Adams MJ., et al. 2013). The Spring Peeper Program is focused on three frog species that were once abundant in the St. Louis area - Spring Peepers, Boreal Chorus Frogs, and Blanchard's Cricket Frogs. It is important to clarify that these species are in no way currently threatened with extinction in our state and can still be found throughout their ranges. However, observations from local frog and toad community science projects around the St. Louis area indicate a possible absence or decrease of these three species. What makes the Spring Peeper Program different is that this project has the opportunity to focus our conservation efforts early in process, before these species and their habitats have declined to a level that we are sadly becoming all too familiar with. It is essential that we understand the scope, geographic scale, and cause of these declines before it is too late.
Small and Semi-Aquatic
Hylidae is referred to as the treefrog and allies family. Many people have heard the bird-like trill of Grey Treefrogs in their neighborhood, but for most of St. Louis, it has been awhile since they heard the calls of Spring Peepers, Chorus Frogs, or Cricket Frogs. These frogs were once commonly heard around the St. Louis area but they have since disappeared from much of their former. For this reason, this project is focused on these small, semi-aquatic allies within Hylidae.
When Spring Peepers are calling, it's hard to miss that high-pitched "peep". A call from a single male can be over 100 decibels! This small frog can be green, gray, olive, or brown and has a distinctive "X" marking on its back. Webbed feet and toe pads, like a treefrog, can be seen as well. However, unlike treefrogs, Spring Peepers prefer to spend their time on the ground.
Spring Peepers begin breeding season in late February. Females lay up to 900 eggs in small fishless bodies of water. The eggs will hatch in 3 to 4 days and the tadpoles will go through metamorphosis about 2 months later.
Boreal Chorus Frog
If you hear a frog call that sounds like a fingernail running over a comb, then you have heard the call of the Boreal Chorus Frog. The color of this frog can be a green-gray or brown, with a white upper lip and a dark stripe passing through the eye and down its side.
This frog also begins breeding in late February and prefers to lay their eggs in shallow fishless bodies of water. The eggs typically hatch within a week and tadpoles will go through metamorphosis in 6 to 8 weeks.
In Missouri, the Boreal Chorus Frog was previously called the Western Chorus Frog. However, recent genetic testing has revealed that only Boreal Chorus Frogs are found in Missouri.
Blanchard's Cricket Frog
Acris crepitans blanchardi
Unlike its treefrog relatives, Blanchard's Cricket Frog is mostly terrestrial and rarely climbs. Their call is fairly easy to remember. A Cricket Frog's call sounds like two marbles clicking together quickly. They come in a variety of colors including tan, brown, and olive green with a line of lime green, red, or rust down their back. They usually have a triangle marking between their eyes as well.
Cricket Frogs are not as cold tolerate as the other two species so they begin breeding in April. These frogs prefer more permanent sources of water so ponds or slow moving streams with gravel or muddy banks are ideal breeding habitat.
To identify and protect any remaining populations of Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer), Boreal Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris maculata), and Blanchard's Cricket Frogs (Acris crepitans blanchardi) within the St. Louis metro area.
To identify and study the urbanization causes for their decline in the St. Louis metro area.
To increase the St. Louis urban amphibian diversity by reestablishing viable and sustainable breeding populations of the species listed above in the watersheds located within the Interstate 270 beltway.
How You Can Help
To help our project work towards bringing back our frog and toad diversity to the Saint Louis area check out one of the following actions: