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Time to do some toad tracking

Niagara Falls Review,
Laura Barton,
April 27 2016

Humans aren’t the only ones enjoying the warm weather.

As temperatures around the region continue to rise, reptiles and amphibians will start to become a more common sight. The organization Ontario Nature claims it has already been seen in Niagara Falls.

For outdoorsy people, this is an opportunity to see all the different kinds of wildlife that Niagara has to offer.

According to Kim Frohlich, an ecologist with Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, there are many different kinds of frogs, toads, salamanders, turtles and snakes in the region.

She described Niagara’s ecosystem as “unique and interesting” and said everyone has a role in maintaining the balance between wildlife and humans.

Taking species at risk into consideration, that balance is a little off.

“The more development we have results in habitat being lost,” Frohlich stated.

Ontario Nature is trying to help keep track of the different species with its Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas, which began in 2009.

Erin Mallon, a conservation biologist with Ontario Nature, described the atlas as a collaborative effort between people in the field, such as naturalists and researchers who submit to a database to help keep track of the populations of different species around the province.

Even non-specialists have the opportunity to participate in supplying information for the atlas too and are referred to as “citizen scientists,” all it takes is reporting to Ontario Nature about whatever reptiles or amphibians are seen along the way.

There are three ways to do this: download, print and mail a data sheet, use the online form or use the relatively new Ontario Nature – Ontario Reptile & Amphibian Atlas app.

Having expert knowledge isn’t required for reporting about the critter seen, either.

Mallon explained the submission form asks questions such as location, weather and even time of day to help with identification.

There is also a photo submission option, which she said is helpful because creatures like these are “really cryptic” and “designed not to be seen.” Sometimes even the experts have to take a while to figure out which creature is which because they disguise themselves so well.

The goal of getting the community actively involved in such a project is to spread awareness about amphibians and reptiles, said Mallon, adding, “We want to get people interested in nature.”

The program helps to fill in “data gaps,” which are areas that either haven’t been studied before or haven’t been studied in a while. Ontario Nature is trying to get the most accurate look at the province’s amphibious and reptilian wildlife.

Furthermore, the data provides the organization with a better perspective on the situation of at risk species across the province.

According to Ontario Nature, 75 per cent of Ontario’s reptile species are at risk, a number that sits at 22 per cent for amphibians.

“We’re all part of the same ecosystem,” Frohlich said when asked what can be done to help at risk species. “Live harmoniously.”

To be a part of Ontario Nature’s citizen science programs, visit the website, download the app or e-mail atlas@ontarionature.org.