Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Amphibians in Idaho

Idaho conservationists don't often talk about amphibians. That's probably because the state has only fifteen species (and one of them, the bullfrog, is not native).

Compared to some areas of the tropics this is a paltry number: Colombia, for instance, has 754 amphibian species, with ten new species found just this year.

But Idaho still has some interesting frogs, toads and salamanders that you might see. Some, like the tiger salamander (above), may very well be in your backyard.
The Idaho giant salamander (above) prefers forest habitat. It often hides under logs, and is known for its tendency to "growl" when threatened. The Columbia spotted frog is a desert species; look for it in wetlands and low flowing rivers of the Owyhees.
I've found three Pacific tree frogs (above) in my yard this summer. Apparently, they move away from their riparian homes to lay eggs in any moist area they can find. They are often the frog species you will hear "peeping" on a summer night.
While The Nature Conservancy's work in Idaho does not specifically focus on amphibians, our work benefits these species. Protecting forest habitat, for instance, may be aimed at protecting elk and grizzly bears, but it also benefits Idaho giant salamanders. Wetland protection benefits many amphibian species.

Worldwide, amphibian species are facing a significant decline in numbers. Once-common species like the golden toad of Costa Rica have disappeared completely. A significant reason for the decline appears to be a fungal infection; some suggest that infection may be spreading due to climate change or pesticide use. With one-third of amphibian species worldwide threatened with extinction, ensuring the survival of frogs, toads, newts and salamanders is one of the conservation biology's most pressing challenges. --Matt Miller

Photo credits: tiger salamander by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Idaho giant salamander by National Park Service; Pacific tree frog by CS California via a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

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