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BLANE KLEMEK OUTDOORS: My yard is 'hopping' with toads and frogs

Aside from the wonderful frog and toad chorus of springtime vocalizing males, which I love listening to so much, my yard is now “hopping” with immature toads and frogs of several different species — American toad, wood frogs, spring peepers, chorus frogs and gray tree frogs.

American toad
Toads have much shorter legs than frogs and prefer to crawl around rather than hop. They also are known to have drier, warty skin.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
We are part of The Trust Project.

Two years ago, I called a friend and colleague of mine, Kurt Svendsgaard, who is a private lands biologist for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, to see if he would be interested in restoring two drained wetlands on my property.

The tiny basins, linked together by a ditch that had been dug decades ago through the center of the wetlands, effectively drained both wetlands into nearby Assawa Lake.

As I had thought, Kurt agreed that one or two small earthen dikes would be all that was necessary to restore the wetlands to functioning, productive wetlands once again.

A few weeks later, a contractor showed up with a small backhoe to create two dikes, one in between the two basins, and one more at the outlet where the ditch continues to the lake.

Fast forward to today, and I am happy to report that the wetland restorations are a success. Last summer was an outlier with the drought and all, as hardly any water pooled or remained in the wetlands for long, but this summer with the snowfall we received last winter and all the timely rains since then, is a much different story.

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At the time of this writing, both restorations continue to hold plenty of water and wildlife, with frogs and toads being the primary beneficiaries of them all.

Aside from the wonderful frog and toad chorus of springtime vocalizing males, which I love listening to so much, my yard is now “hopping” with immature toads and frogs of several different species — American toad, wood frogs, spring peepers, chorus frogs and gray tree frogs. What a delight!

Fourteen frogs and toads, which are amphibians, are dependent on Minnesota’s abundant aquatic habitats. The word amphibian is derived from the Greek word amphibious, which means "living a double life" (Amphi) and "mode of life" (bios).

For certain, parts of most amphibians’ life cycle occur entirely in the water while another part of their lives occurs mostly out of water.

All Minnesota frogs and toads lay eggs in water. Once hatched, the offspring are called tadpoles. The fish-like, gilled tadpoles eventually undergo the amazing transformation, called metamorphosis, from baby tadpoles to adult frogs or toads.

Common wood frog
Frogs have long legs, longer than their head and body, which are made for hopping and have smooth, somewhat slimy skin.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

For the first week to 10 days of tadpoles’ lives, they feed on their own yolk sacs. During this early period, tadpoles have poorly developed mouths, tails and gills. In fact, tadpoles will often attach themselves to aquatic vegetation with the aid of special organs on their bodies.

Following this brief time of semi-sedentary living, the young tadpoles detach from plants and begin swimming freely while feeding on mostly algae. And as they continue to feed and grow, tadpoles begin taking on the appearance of what they will eventually become — a frog or toad.

As their first month of life draws to a close, a tadpole’s gills begin to gradually disappear as new skin grows and covers their gills. Tiny teeth develop inside their mouths to help them better masticate their food and, coupled with long, coiled guts, contributes to maximizing nutrients needed for their fast-changing bodies.

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Over the next several weeks, leg development begins in earnest. First to reveal themselves are the hind legs, followed shortly thereafter by the front legs. In due time, the long-tailed tadpole has fully developed front and hind legs as well as a head that appears more adult frog or toad-like.

By the end of their third month of life for most species, tadpoles are nearly ready to emerge from the water to live the remainder of their lives in adult forms when the whole cycle begins again; where come springtime, the over-wintered adult frogs and toads emerge from their respective hibernacula to mate and start life anew to sing, mate and lay eggs.

From eggs to tadpoles to adult frogs and toads, few creatures are as unique as these special animals as we get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

Blane Klemek is a Minnesota DNR wildlife manager. He can be reached at bklemek@yahoo.com.

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Related Topics: BLANE KLEMEKNORTHLAND OUTDOORSOUTDOORS RECREATION
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