By Don Corrigan (Webster-Kirkwood Times)
When I was a boy, frogs and toads got a bad rap. I was told they give you warts. Toads would pee on you if you picked them up. Frogs were linked to being French. Moses threatened a plague of frogs on a pharaoh in Egypt.
By the time I was a teenager, frog and toad lovers were being mocked by music stars. Mason Williams sang about Southern redneck toad suckers: “Look at them Toad Suckers, Ain’t they snappy? Suckin’ them bog-frogs, Sure makes ’em happy.” (The song can be heard in the video at the end of this article.)
They were all happy because a few toads and frogs apparently emit poisons that will cause hallucinations. In fact, some states outlaw possession of the amphibian poisons as a controlled substance. It pains me to write about this. I do not want to encourage any Show-Me-State toad sucking.
Also, I do not want to bring back the days when frogs and toads were shunned as agents of warts, wizardry, wickedness and witchcraft. Frogs are our friends. We need our toads.
Frogs eat slugs, termites, moths, flies, roaches and mosquitoes. That makes frogs OK in my book or, at least, in this newspaper. I do not have a heart big enough to join a “Save the Whales Campaign” – but I do think frogs are the right size for my heart’s capacity for animal sympathy.
So, “Save the Frogs.”
This is why when a press release came in from the St. Louis Zoo asking for “a few good frog watchers,” I jumped on it. Zoo officials were asking for “citizen scientists” to monitor frogs and toads from backyards, parks, fields, creeks or just about anywhere.
Learning to distinguish the croaks, peeps and calls of the 10 most common frog species in the St. Louis area is a part of the frog watch program. Zoo Naturalist Michael Dawson trains volunteer ears to sort out soft frog trills from a deafening pond chorus.
The information gathered will lead to practical and workable ways to stop amphibian decline. We are losing our frogs to water pollution issues and climate change. We need frog and toad data to address all the challenges that their populations face.
According to scientists like J. Alan Pounds at the Tropical Science Center in Costa Rica, climate change has now wiped out a slew of frog species. Rising temperatures damage natural habitats for frogs, which are vulnerable to changes in their environment.
Google “FrogWatch” and you will learn this movement to save the frogs reaches far beyond St. Louis. While viewing all the Internet frog watch news, do not stray to those Ebay sites offering Kermit the Frog watches. Stay focused on real, live frogs.
With all due respect to the pharaoh threatened by Moses’ frog invasion, we actually need to pray for a plague of frogs to prey on the mosquitoes now coming our way due to climate change.
If you can’t be a Zoo frog watcher, be a frog lover like me. Do not, however, pick up a frog and kiss it to show your love. A frog treated in this way could turn into a prince — we don’t need any more princes in this world. We certainly do need more frogs.
FrogWatch is a national citizen science program that monitors Frogs and toads during the breeding season, February through March. The program consists currently of about 185 chapters located across the country. Michael Dawson with the Education Department at the St. Louis Zoo is the FrogWatch Chapter Coordinator for St. Louis.
Training sessions for the program are completed for this season, but he notes that FrogWatch volunteers are now in action and will continue to monitor sites and report observations up until August. To date, Saint Louis FrogWatch volunteers have observed Spring Peepers, Chorus frogs, Southern Leopard Frogs, and the Eastern American Toads calling in our area.
Volunteer training sessions for 2017 will be offered in March and April. Check out the Saint Louis FrogWatch page HERE for future volunteer training.
If you are interested in helping out this year, Michael is always looking for volunteers to help build a collection of royalty free frog and toad calls that can be shared to the public and used for FrogWatch volunteer training and certifications. If you are interested in submitting audio recordings, please contact Mike Dawson at email@example.com for additional information.
Below find Mason Williams song “Toad Suckers.” The song begins at 2:00 minutes into the video.
Those folks who are blessed to be old enough to have watched the Smothers Brothers Show will remember the musical guests of Steve Martin and Mason Williams. And although Williams may be best known for his great instrumental, “Classical Gas,” which I somehow always associated with the loss of Robert F. Kennedy, a happier tune of Williams was about Toad Sucking. I could not resist a mention of the toad-sucking song in this column about FrogWatchers. I wish all the volunteer FrogWatchers my best in their quest to help out these amphibians. And perhaps they’ll take some time out from this work to consider a little toad sucking — or, at least, some time out to sing about toad-sucking. Look at those toad suckers, ain’t they snappy?
I am getting phone calls from people who want to train and volunteer for this. Unfortunately, they will have to wait until the 2017 program. I also am getting calls from residents who want me to visit their frog ponds. OK. I may do just that, get some Zoo people to go with me, and write a story about local frog ponds and the noise that they make. Rib-bit. Rib-bit. Rib-bit!