When the world celebrates Save The Frogs Day on Tuesday, Montanans have good reason to celebrate. The state has a baseline survey of amphibians and reptiles in hand for the first time in its history.
Frogs are the most common of amphibians, but the group includes toads, salamanders and the wormlike caecilians. All are capable of living on land or in water. Amphibians are important food sources for birds, fish and reptiles and consume huge quantities of mosquitoes and other pests that transmit illnesses to humans.
Many amphibians in Montana inhabit wetlands, those rich areas of water and willows that protect water quality by filtering sediment and that also help to cool the earth. Amphibians can be excellent indicators of the health of these important habitats.
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Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and other state and federal agencies assisted in this inventory. A Web site housed at the Montana Natural Heritage Program allows resource managers and the public to access details and digital photos of the survey.
The inventories suggest that amphibians in a variety of elevations, habitat types and areas of disturbance appear to be in decline.
"Today, we have the evidence to confirm declines in western toad and northern leopard frog populations in western Montana," project coordinator Bryce Maxell said. "Western toads are no longer 'common' or 'the most common' as historical sources once reported, and the northern leopard frog was detected at only one site in Western Montana."