Wildlife Action Plan: Amphibian Reintroduction update (2015)

November 24, 2015

With winter approaching, it’s time to note the highlights of this year’s cemetery reintroduction project for American Toads, Spring Peepers, and Gray Treefrogs.

American Toads calling in the Cemetery, 2015

American Toads calling in the Cemetery, 2015

American Toads continue to disperse within the cemetery: This year, for the first time, toads were heard calling at Willow Pond and, later in the season, newly metamorphosed toadlets were seen along its south shore. Willow Pond thus becomes the third water body (the other two being Dell Pond and Halcyon Lake) in which American Toads are successfully breeding. This is a very positive sign with respect to the species becoming re-established at the cemetery. The first toadlets seen anywhere in the cemetery were at the Dell Pond on, appropriately, July 4th.  American Toad photo above by Andrew Rotch.

Spring peepers calling in the Cemetery, 2015

Spring peepers calling in the Cemetery, 2015

Spring Peepers are beginning to disperse within the cemetery:
For the first time Spring Peepers were heard calling at Halcycon Lake, making this the second water body at which they have been heard. Numerous Spring Peepers were seen and heard calling at the Dell Pond for the second year in a row.

More Gray Treefrog tadpoles were released in the Dell Pond: For the second year Gray Treefrog tadpoles were released in the Dell Pond. Some of this year’s tadpoles came courtesy of Bill Lazaris of Rowley who discovered numerous Gray Treefrogs tadpoles living in a small pool of rainwater that had formed in his swimming pool cover. He had moved them to a water trough to continue their development when he read Don Lyman’s Boston Globe article on the Mount Auburn Cemetery amphibian reintroduction project. Bill contacted me to ask if I wanted them for the project. I readily accepted the offer as these tadpoles provided a new source of Gray Treefrogs for the cemetery. (Last year’s tadpoles came from Boxborough and Whitman.) A few weeks later more Gray Treefrog tadpoles were obtained from the Concord area through the efforts of Bryan Windmiller. As always, a state scientific collecting permit was required for moving native wildlife within Massachusetts.

Gray treefrog, Photo by Andrew Rotch

Gray treefrog, Photo by Andrew Rotch

Some Gray Treefrogs survived last year’s record snow: There were four separate sightings of juvenile gray treefrogs between April and July, all along Walnut Avenue. Two were during the day by grounds crew and two were at night by security guard Andrew Rotch.

It really is a reintroduction of American Toads at Mount Auburn:  Prior to this year I would always say I was translocating American Toads to the cemetery because, although I was fairly certain they had existed at the cemetery in past, I had no proof. However, while recently examining the Reptile ledger (that included amphibians) of the now defunct Peabody Museum of Salem at the Peabody Essex Museum’s Phillips Library, I came across the entry for No. 258. It records that two American Toads were collected at “Mt. Auburn, Mass.” by R.H. Wheatland and given to the museum on August 28, 1856. Given that Mr. Wheatland was a recognized naturalist associated with the Boston area it is a safe assumption that “Mt. Auburn” refers to the cemetery grounds. Regretfully, the physical specimens no longer exist.

In the case of Gray Treefrogs there has never been an issue concerning their reintroduction status. Eight preserved juvenile gray treefrogs exist at the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology’s Herpetology collection, originally entered as catalogue number A-50. They were collected by J.H. Richard at “Mt. Auburn, Cambridge, Mass.” and donated on February 20, 1862. The fact that these are juveniles indicates that a breeding population of Gray Treefrogs still existed at the cemetery thirty years after its inception.

Thus, it has been another successful year for the amphibian reintroduction project. American Toads and Spring Peepers continue to flourish and become more established within the cemetery. Hopefully this trend will continue and it’s possible that 2016 will bring the first calling Gray Treefrogs!

Written by Joe Martinez. Map graphics by Ann Powers.


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