May 2017: The Plight of Amphibians: And How We Can Help

~by Virginia Rhys-Anson, OFS

Amphibians, those cute little creatures that live ambiguously both in water and on land, have been with us since before the days of the dinosaurs. Somehow they survived the cataclysmic event that took out these great beasts. They have survived well from that time forward.

That is, until recent times. The First Word Congress of Herpetology in 1989 revealed a distressing discovery, that amphibian populations were decreasing and some species were disappearing. Amphibian deformities were, further, greatly increasing. This phenomenon has risen ominously since 1995.

Researchers deduce that we are experiencing an extinction rate 200 times faster than average. They see this happening due to a variety of causes: global warming, pollution, habitat reduction, ozone depletion and the subsequent increase in UV radiation, invasive species, fungal infections. Some of the causes are, admittedly, natural and would occur even if we humans didn’t exist. But we would be naïve and, in fact, irresponsible as a species if we did not admit our fault in this disaster—and huge fault it is.

Amphibians are among the most vulnerable of species, their decline occurring more rapidly that other species. This according to the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

According to Andrew Baustein, Zoology professor at Oregon State University, “An enormous rate of change has occurred in the last 100 years and amphibians are not evolving fast enough to keep up with it…With a permeable skin and exposure to aquatic and terrestrial problems, amphibians face a double whammy. Because of this, mammals, fish, and birds have not experienced population impacts as severely as amphibians—at least not yet.”

Such a dismal picture of the future of our amphibian brethren leaves us feeling totally helpless. The cause and solution seem so very overwhelming and so out of our control. Yet there are baby steps that we can take. And enough baby steps may just help paint a brighter future.

Create a natural landscape on your property and in your community. Local streams and wetlands, likewise, need to be kept healthy—or returned to healthy if necessary. Perhaps your yard could house a pond. Even a small one would be a welcome oasis for frogs and other amphibians that call your yard home.

When you mow, watch the ground for toads (and other critters) that, hopefully, will hop out of the way of the mower. And avoid the use of herbicides and pesticides, which can kill these welcome guests.

Build or purchase a toad abode—a small ceramic home to which toads can escape potential predators, or simply to rest. An upside down flower pot with a toad-sized chink chipped out of it will work well. Simply place it on the ground in a shady spot near water—your newly created pond or just the base of the pot used for the toad abode.

Keep a watchful eye for invasive species. A bit of research may be called for to determine which species may be invasive in your area. Such animals may eat frogs and other amphibians.

Opportunities exist for average citizens, known as citizen scientists, to assist scientists in their efforts and research. These opportunities may involve monitoring various species and their numbers. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums has devised a project for volunteers to help monitor frogs and toads called Frogwatch USA. Visit their website to learn more—

Lastly, you can educate yourself so that you can help educate your neighbors and community on the plight of amphibians and how critical it is to preserve and protect nature, especially her woodlands, wetlands, and watersheds.

Unfortunately for nature and wildlife, they depend on us to be responsible caretakers.

Unfortunately, also, humanity has failed far too often in its responsibility. Fortunately, many, many people are stepping forward to protect and heal nature and her wildlife.

For more information and projects designed to assist nature’s creatures visit the National Wildlife Federation at


Virginia Anson grew up in the shadows of Sandia Crest in New Mexico. Family camping trips may have sparked her passion for nature. She holds an A.S. in Electronics Technology, a B.A. in Writing, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and a certificate in Wildlife/Forestry Conservation. Her book, Mother Earth’s Caretakers, targets middle school youngsters and is published as an e-book for Kindle. Virginia is a Vietnam Era veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and her volunteer endeavors see her as a lector, Eucharistic minister, and sacristan in her parish and as a habitat steward for the National Wildlife Federation. She especially cherishes her life in the Secular Franciscan Order, following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.


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