But Eagle Marsh's shallow-water wetlands now support a teeming leopard frog population, said Betsy Yankowiak, director of preserves and programs for the Little River Wetlands Project. The nonprofit organization manages several nature preserves, including 716-acre Eagle Marsh on the southwest side of Fort Wayne.
Now, there sometimes are so many leopard frogs hopping around, it's nearly impossible to avoid stepping on some, Yankowiak said. The cricket frog, which has been struggling to survive in many places around the Midwest, also seems to be holding its own at Eagle Marsh.
"When you build or restore those kinds of areas, they will find their way back," Yankowiak said.
People interested in helping monitor the status of area frogs and toads can volunteer with the FrogWatch USA program. Local training sessions will be offered Saturday and Feb. 27 at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo's education center on Franke Park Drive.
Amphibians include frogs, toads, salamanders and newts. They typically spend part of their lives in water and part on land. They usually also have thin, moist skin through which they can absorb a portion of the oxygen they breathe.
While amphibians haven't experienced any dramatic population losses locally, "we are showing the same patterns of loss you see across the Midwest," said Bruce Kingsbury, a biology professor at IPFW and the director of its Environmental Resources Center.
Habitat loss and exposure to pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer washed off farm fields have been longtime threats to amphibians, Kingsbury said.
Most amphibians prefer to lay eggs in seasonal wetlands that contain shallow pools of water in the spring and early summer and then dry up by late summer, he said. Those wetlands typically are the first ones people destroy because they are the easiest to drain away.
Amphibians also spend a lot of time in water, and their permeable skin may allow pollutants to be absorbed easily into their bodies, Kingsbury said.
In recent years, fungal and other diseases have become increasing threats to both amphibians and reptiles, he said.
"Our populations of amphibians and reptiles are not prepared to deal with them," added Kingsbury, who said reptiles also suffer from loss of habitat.
The fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, also known as Bsal or salamander chytrid, poses such a severe threat to American salamanders that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an interim rule, effective Jan. 28, that declares 201 salamander species — including some native species — as "injurious wildlife." The designation prohibits importing them to the United States and or shipping them across state lines without a federal permit.
This is the first time U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials have applied that law to native species, said Mark Jordan, an associate professor of biology at IPFW, whose research locally includes salamanders.
Bsal has devastated salamander populations in Europe, the fish and wildlife service reports on its website, http://www.fws.gov/injuriouswildlife/salamanders.html.
Locally, it's difficult to tell how salamander populations are doing because they can live for several years and they are slower than frogs to move back into restored wetlands, Jordan said.
But he and Kingsbury hope last year's unusually wet spring gave a boost to populations of all local amphibians.
"I think we'll find more," Jordan said.
More InformationGet involved
WHAT: The FrogWatch USA program trains volunteers to visit local ponds, wetlands and streams to listen for and record the frog and toad species they hear croaking. The results get fed into a national database, which helps experts monitor trends in frog and toad populations.
WHEN: Training offered 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Feb. 27. Volunteers need to attend only one session.
WHERE: Fort Wayne Children's Zoo Education Center, 600 Franke Park Drive, adjacent to the overflow parking lot east of Sherman Boulevard.
COST: Free. To register or for more information, call the zoo at 427-6828 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: People are encouraged to bring a sack lunch or snack to their training session.