Population Leap: Frog Numbers Spike in Vermont Towns

A prominent amphibian researcher says wetter spring conditions brought on by climate change contributed to the population boom

A surprising phenomenon has caught the attention of many people in Vermont’s Addison County, where a handful of communities have seen an explosion in their local frog population.

In Preston Turner’s yard in Salisbury, it sort of seems like the ground is moving—from countless quick blurs of darting frogs. They are more than Turner can remember ever seeing before, he said.

Turner told necn he has been hesitant to mow his lawn recently, because of all the frogs.

“The only way to do it is to drive your lawnmower slow,” Turner said. “They tend to hop to the sidelines, which is good.”

Salisbury, Leicester, and Cornwall are all seeing a ton of northern leopard frogs, neighbors necn met Wednesday said.

Jim Andrews, who researches frogs and other animals for the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas, said northern leopard frogs thrive in swampy flood plains like the one around the Otter Creek.

In that setting, Andrews explained hundreds of thousands of frogs lucked out with a super soggy spring with lingering flood waters—good for eggs and tadpoles—followed by a sudden shift to warm weather that helped them grow.

Now, as the leopard frogs fan out into the world, humans are really noticing them.

Roads near the Otter Creek region have become veritable frog graveyards, Andrews noted. Paved roads are speckled with dead frogs and black spots left after frogs are squashed by car tires.

“You would hear the popping of frogs under your tires: ‘pop, pop, pop, pop, pop,’ as you drove along,” Andrews said.

The researcher is looking at this boom as an ultra-local effect of climate change, he said, with heavier rain events and other factors having impacts on ecosystems.

“Ecosystems are complex systems, and as we alter them, we may find many surprising results, some of which, like this, are relatively benign, but others that are not so benign,” Andrews said.

Back at the Turners’ place, gardener Chris Turner doesn’t mind the new arrivals hanging out in her carrot patch, she told necn.

“I think they’re welcome,” she said of the northern leopard frogs. “I’m hoping they’re taking care of a lot of the garden pests, like earwigs and slugs.”

The Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas provides information on how to help species, and requests Vermonters to keep their eyes open for certain species to help document the reach of salamanders, turtles, toads, snakes, and other animals.

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