You don’t have to kiss them, just be thankful they’re here
Most of Park City’s newest residents take up housing in condos or restored historic homes, but the Columbia Spotted Frogs repopulated throughout the Swaner Nature Preserve were dropped off in one-foot squared metal and mesh boxes.
The Spotted Frog, on the short list of the 15 amphibians native to Utah, is high on the list of threatened species for the state at a Tier 1 classification, the most threatened a species can be at the state level. This frog has been a resident of the Utah for the past 15,000 years, but over the last century development and major changes to its habitat have severely reduced the population of the seven-to-10 centimeter amphibian.
Recently, the Department of Natural Resources and the Swaner Nature Preserve identified a positive result of their repatriation efforts: They found three egg masses. Just as they sound, egg masses are collections of frog eggs left by females that contain hundreds of individual eggs. In this case, volunteers and scientists found some 700 eggs.
In all likelihood, according to Chris Crockett, native aquatics biologist for Department of Natural Resources for the State of Utah, those eggs were laid by females repatriated to the Swaner Nature Preserve in 2004. Thanks to long winters and other contributing factors, it could have easily taken these frogs some four years to reach their reproductive maturity and lay eggs.
Of those eggs, Crockett estimates that only about one to five percent will reach maturity. Ultimately, in order to achieve sustainable genetic diversity and build a population capable of surviving on its own merits, some 50 to 100 frogs will have to populate the preserve.
The Department of Natural Resources began to reintroduce these frogs to Swaner in 2004 after an intensive study to identify regions that best met their needs. Swaner, said Crockett, made an ideal spot for them to repatriate the frogs because of both the habitat and the volunteers and staff who work for the preserve. Maybe most importantly, Swaner will continue to be protected for the foreseeable future.
On Thursday night, Crockett and Swaner staff led a hike through the preserve to visit some of the tadpoles left there. Both young children and adults had the opportunity to get a close-up look at these nascent amphibians, in some sense acting out the greatest benefit that a new population of these frogs might bring back to Utah. According to Crockett, more tourism dollars are generated by wildlife viewing than hunting and frogs usually hop fairly high on the list of anticipated species.
Ecologically, the repatriation of these frogs represents part of an environmental healing process taking place on a much larger scale. Usually considered indicators of ecological health, frog populations are strongly tied to both water availability and quality. If a frog population can be sustained at the Swaner Nature Preserve, that group would serve as evidence that the once drained plot of farmland had fully recovered to a sustainable wetland.
Swaner plans to hold other events in tribute to the Columbia Spotted Frog in the future. For more information, visit http://www.swanernaturepreserve.org .
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Park City officials are preparing to take what is considered to be an important step in protecting the Treasure land from wildfires. City Hall in early June requested proposals from firms interested in the work.