Amphibians are essential components of ecosystems and play important ecological roles. They are considered one of nature’s best indicators of environmental health. The word amphibian comes from the Greek meaning “Double Life”, referring to the fact that most amphibians spend part of their lives in water and part of their lives on land. Thus amphibians need us to maintain healthy habitats for them in both freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. Amphibians drink and breathe through their permeable skin and are highly sensitive to pollution and environmental degradation. Globally, amphibians are in decline with more than 40% of Earth’s amphibian species threatened with extinction. Now is the time to take action to ensure their survival! On the Sunshine Coast, we are especially concerned with three species at risk, the Northern Red-legged Frog, Western Toad, and Coastal Tailed Frog (all blue-listed in BC and federally classified as species of special concern).
The Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas) was once abundant throughout western North America, but has recently experienced devastating declines, with large populations disappearing mysteriously from many areas, including parts of BC. Important breeding habitat for the species includes shallow, warm ponds, lake margins, slow-flowing streams, marshes, bogs and fens. Western Toads normally breed in mass, with all members of a local population gathering together at the same time in the same location, which is often used repeatedly from year to year. After eggs hatch, tadpoles gather together in dense aggregations or schools. At the end of the summer, juvenile toadlets disperse from breeding ponds together.
Northern Red-legged Frogs (Rana aurora) are named for their colourful legs. Important habitat for these frogs includes forested pools, wetlands with shallow water (particularly bogs and fens), and fringes of lakes. Juveniles and adults spend much of their time on land; up to 90% of feeding and growth occurs terrestrially, typically in cool, moist forested environments. Thus the species requires intact upland habitat adjacent to breeding sites in order to maintain viable populations. Red-legged Frogs are disappearing from many areas of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island but they are still fairly common in the wetlands of the Sunshine Coast.
The Coastal Tailed Frog (Ascaphus truei) is an ancient and unusual species. It is the longest lived frog in North America, with the longest larval period, remaining in tadpole stage for up to 5-7 years. These tiny frogs are habitat specialists, living in cool, fast-flowing mountain streams with step-pool morphologies and adjacent mature forest. They reproduce via internal fertilization and females attach eggs to the underside of large rocks or boulders in streams in the summer. Tadpoles have a flattened oral disc that serves as a sucker for clinging to boulders in the fast-flowing water, where they feed by scraping diatoms and algae from rocks. Adult frogs may live for more than 20 years, and rarely venture far from their natal streams. This species requires healthy riparian ecosystems and is threatened by activities that alter the temperature and turbidity of streams.
How We are Helping Amphibians
- Surveying amphibians, including shoreline, egg mass, environmental DNA (eDNA), live trapping, and artificial cover object (ACO) surveys to evaluate species distributions and abundances
- Identifying amphibian breeding sites, especially sites occupied by species at risk
- Active surveillance for the alien invasive species, American Bullfrog
- Creating new wetlands for amphibians and other species
- Naturalizing wetland shorelines to improve habitat quality
- Helping community members and groups to build and improve frog ponds
- Installing amphibian interpretive signs
You Can Help!
- Be a Wildlife Steward - Join our free Wildlife Stewardship Program and conserve and enhance habitat for amphibians and other wildlife on your property
- Look, Listen, and Learn – Become a Frog Watcher; learn to identify amphibian species and submit your sightings to help monitor local populations. Monitor amphibian egg masses in your local pond or wetland and let us know which species you have seen. Report all sightings of species at risk, Red-legged Frog, Western Toad, and Coastal Tailed Frog
- Prevent Introductions – Non-native species, including sport fish and bullfrogs, are voracious predators of native amphibians. Never move species from one site to another.
- Watch for Invaders - Report any potential sightings of alien invader American Bullfrog. To date, the Bullfrog has not been detected on the Lower Sunshine Coast, although it is present in all surrounding areas. This alien invasive species has devastating impacts on native amphibians. Early detection is key to controlling the spread
- Keep Water Clean – Avoid using chemicals that may enter water or soil, including pesticides, herbicides, and toxic cleaning products.
- Wood is Good – Maintain decaying logs, stumps and other woody debris as shelter for amphibians; avoid collecting firewood from natural areas.
- Fertilize Naturally – Care for your garden with natural products. An organic garden is a wildlife friendly garden, with amphibians and other critters providing no cost pest control services.
- Maintain and Enhance Habitat – Maintain existing wetlands, ponds, lakes, streams and forested areas in their natural state. Participate in local habitat restoration and enhancement efforts.
- Natural Shorelines – If you live by the water, maintain a shoreline buffer of natural vegetation. Rethink lawns; consider native plant alternatives. Contact us to nominate a site for shoreline naturalization.
- Build a Frog Pond – Create aquatic habitat by building a back-yard pond, including shallow shoreline areas and submerged, emergent and floating aquatic native plants.
- Slow Down – Drive slowly on wet nights when amphibians may be crossing roads. If it is safe for you to do so, help a frog or toad across the road.
- Prevent Disease – To prevent the spread of Chytrid fungus, wash boats, fishing gear, and boots with bleach solution when moving between water bodies.
- BC FrogWatch
- Best management practices for amphibians and reptiles
- Save the Frogs
- ID guide to amphibians of northern BC (most of these species also on Sunshine Coast)
- Bullfrogs threaten BC ecosystems (Canadian Geographic)
- Status Report on the Western Toad in Canada (2013)
- Status Report on the Northern Red-legged frog in Canada (2015)
- Status Report on the Coastal Tailed Frog in Canada (2012)