Posts Tagged invasive species
Over the last few years, staff at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Western Ecological Research Center have been distributing coloring sheets at outreach events featuring California’s native herps. Among those species featured are natives – the western pond turtle, the California newt, and the mountain yellow-legged frog, and non-natives – the red-eared slider and the American bullfrog.
The mountain yellow-legged frog is one species on the brink of extinction. With wild populations numbering in the low hundreds, the federally endangered species suffered a setback in late 2011 after 104 frogs died mysteriously in the middle of a captive breeding program at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Only two frogs survived. What that means for the future of the species is still unclear.
Red-eared sliders and bullfrogs are both among the culprits responsible, in part (among other factors), for the declines in western pond turtle and mountain yellow-legged frog populations: sliders for their role in introducing disease and out-competing native western pond turtles, bullfrogs for their likeness to a black hole, eating anything that could conceivably fit into their mouths, frogs and hatchling turtles included.
The sheets give kids an opportunity to not only learn about California’s native herps, but also which herp species are invasive non-natives. The entire collection of coloring pages can be found at the USGS-WERC website here.
Cheery: The True Adventures of a Chiricahua Leopard Frog, by Elizabeth W. Davidson, Five Star Publications, Inc. (www.fivestarpublications.net), 2011, 24 pages, $15.95
The Chiricahua leopard frog (Rana chiricahuensis) – a species known for its distinctive bedtime *snore* call – is in danger of extinction like so many amphibian species today. With a range limited to parts of Arizona and Mexico, its populations have dwindled over the years (vanishing from more than 80% of their former range) due to amphibian decline’s usual suspects: invasive predators (bullfrogs and crayfish), the Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis chytrid fungus, habitat loss, and drought.
Despite this doom and gloom, scientist-turned-children’s author Elizabeth Davidson introduces hope with Cheery, a tadpole on the rise to frogdom. From her inauspicious beginnings as one of hundreds of eggs to her curious bucket-abduction trip to the zoo, Cheery emerges as an amphibious ambassador for both the Chiricahua leopard frog and the recovery efforts currently underway to protect the species spearheaded by Arizona Game and Fish, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Throughout the adventures of Cheery, Davidson infuses the narrative with subtle science, teaching children about the food chain ["...tiny green plants called algae (al-jee) grow soft and slimy on the rocks..."] and hibernation ["It's getting colder... I crawl out of the pond and find a safe place to hide under a big log..."], and introduces young readers to a frog’s-eye view of the captive breeding recovery effort under way at the Phoenix Zoo. Meanwhile, artist Michael Hagelberg unravels Cheery’s pond-hopping exploits through a palette of blues and greens draped in simmering sunsets and smokey shadows, using angles that transport you onto the pond bottom, furrowing into the leaf litter, and ultimately into the life of Cheery the Chiricahua leopard frog. With this winning combination of engaging story, playful art, and a hopeful outlook on the species’ future, from cover to cover Cheery is good to the last hop.
Responding to an inquiry from a San Francisco Bay Area resident this year who stumbled across a western pond turtle at her front door – just one example of the regular inquiries wildlife rescue centers and wildlife biologists field on a daily basis from well-meaning citizens who don’t know what to do when they see a turtle crossing the road or ambling through their rose garden – I recognized the need for a simple public outreach tool: an educational brochure.
This full-color, tri-fold brochure describes our local turtle, describes what to do if you find a turtle, and provides guidance to private landowners and public land managers alike on the best ways to protect and conserve western pond turtles through proactive land stewardship. My goal with this project is to distribute a tool to the public that provides consistent guidance: protect and conserve suitable aquatic and nesting habitat, curb invasive species, and leave healthy turtles in the wild where they belong.
And it’s free! So download the .pdf, print, and distribute.
I encourage wildlife rescue/rehabilitation centers, state and federal agencies, parks and refuges, land trusts, and wildlife biologists to share this resource with the public. If readers drop me a Comment (below) with their organization’s name to let me know they wish to print and distribute this brochure, I’ll create a register with links to the participating parties’ websites.
As the list of western pond turtle educational resources evolves, I’ll continue to post them on the new Educational Material section of (bio)accumulation‘s pages dedicated to the western pond turtle. There, you’ll also find the Field Guide to the Western Pond Turtle, a diagnostic poster that illustrates the western pond turtle’s general field markings and the traits that distinguish males and females.