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Reptiles and Amphibians

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People and Biological Diversity

For several years the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Diversity section has conducted frog and toad surveys. This is a "citizen scientists" type of program.They send out a cassette tape that hadsthe calls of all of the frogs found in Iowa, and a bunch of data sheets. The volunteer selects a few sites to survey, then goes to those sites at specified times (shortly after dark) and record the number of frog calls heard.

I participated in this project many years ago. I remember being frustrated with parts of the process--I had weather that did not cooperate, and as a result I found low numbers and few species. However, I did learn to recognize several of the frog calls, and that has given me great pleasure. In our property we have five species of frogs that show up every year, and I love laying in bed at night with the window open and hearing them call.

One of the advantages of citizen scientist projects is that they promote involvement with the natural creatures that are being studied. Participants, like I was, learn a deep appreciation for the organisms that they are involved with.

There are web sites where you can download the calls of different frogs, and here is one of them: http://www.nwf.org/FrogwatchUSA/frogs_state.cfm?showstate=ia

There is some conservation activity with reptiles in Iowa. Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources have designated an area as a "Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Area" in Iowa. This includes public and private areas in the floodplain of the Mississippi River in southeastern Iowa. It is billed as the first amphibian and reptile conservation area in the nation.

There is a web site--HerpNet--that lists all of Iowa's reptiles and amphibians. It lists 5 species of salamander, 16 species of frogs, 27 species of snakes, 5 lizards, and 13 species of turtles.

Frogs and turtles are considered game species in Iowa--at least some species are. However, the possession limits, particularly for turtles are very high--it is legal to possess up to 100 pounds of live turtles and 50 pounds of dressed turtles. You can collect up to 48 frogs as a daily bag limit and have up to 96 frogs as a possession limit.

There are a lot of frogs and turtles in Iowa. However, it seems to me that with limits that high a relatively low number of individuals could make significant dents in the populations of those animals. I don't think those limits would be sustainable if enough people felt the need to fill their limits.

The Iowa Gap analysis project has additional information about reptiles and amphibians.