Frogs in Your Backyard

Frogs in Your Backyard

By Randy Korb, Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon Society

Wetlands near urban areas tend to be undervalued and underused by local residents. People often have a reason or a specific activity that leads them outdoors, for example, hunting, fishing, and camping. Directing people to wetlands to listen to frogs and toads gives people a reason to go out after dark. We think that once people experience frogs at a particular wetland, even one or two species, and other forms of wildlife, they will feel a sense of ownership and the habitat will have more value to them. We didn’t want to write a book just to inform people about frogs. We felt it important to encourage people, especially families, to visit wetlands and experience breeding choruses. Many people identify or associate with frogs as much through their sounds as by sight.

We completed a book and CD that leads Wisconsin families and other residents to wetlands to see and listen to frogs and toads. Specific listening sites or frog hotspots in and around major metro areas (Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Fox Cities) are identified in the book. The CD of breeding calls produced by our group allows one to learn all the Wisconsin frog calls quickly and is a valuable companion to the book.

What do you consider the key to your success?

The key was the talent and experience of all the people working on the project.

How would you outline the steps in organizing your project to advise another group on a similar project?

Be reasonably sure that the project will be successful. We had done a similar project about 10 years previously that went well. Consider the financial aspects. You don’t want to put your organization at a financial risk. Set a timeline and stick to it. Things always take longer than expected.

What have been the effects of this effort on your organization’s work?

Our board and club consist mainly of long-time members. There is little new blood. In part due to publication of the frog book and CD, we are seeing a shift to involve young people (ages 5 to 18) in environmental causes. I think that our public programs, banquets, and field trips will be youth-oriented in the future. The frog book is dedicated to the young people of Wisconsin and, truly, the future of frogs is in their hands. And the future of grassroots organizations as well.

How has the project affected your community?

The project has affected the Appleton (Fox Cities area) and Green Bay areas more than Madison and Milwaukee (to date). The book lists many nature centers and like facilities for people to visit and many of these offer the book for sale to visitors. As a result of this book, a new Wisconsin Frogs exhibit has opened at Mosquito Hill Nature Center in New London (by Appleton). The back-lit interpretive graphics are taken directly from the book we produced and the CD plays as background noise for the display. Frog programs/book signings took place at a museum, nature center, garden nursery, and school supplies store. Several schools in all 4 urban areas booked frog presentations as well. Families ordered the book after the presentation. The book/CD was offered at a traditional frog hike offered by the Wisconsin DNR in Madison. Night hikes were led in the Appleton and Green Bay areas, too. Frogs, Families, and Fun is the theme for the Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon banquet this spring.

We have distributed about 1,300 sets of the book/CD in the state to date. Over 250 public libraries and 100 school libraries have it on shelf. About 75 retail outlets including bookstores, museums, zoos, nature centers, and nature stores are offering it to the public. We hope to increase this number to 200 outlets by summer’s end. Our goal is to sell all 5,000 copies (made possible by the GLAHNF grant) over the next one to two years.

How many people were involved?

Initially: 1 / Finally: 30+

Approximately 1,000 hours total were spent as follows: Layout and design (160 hours), Correspondence (120 hours), Research (200) Writing (350) editing (20), travel (50 hours), Printing (18 hours). Misc. (100).

How was public involvement motivated and facilitated?

Various herp people around the state helped identify good frog sites around metro areas. Other agency people supplied advice and support. The Audubon board was encouraging to us.

How was public education a component of your program?

The two main issues with frogs, population declines and abnormalities, led to related issues like loss of wetlands, land use, pesticide use, greenhouse effect, human population growth, etc. Education is geared to students and teachers through school programs and teacher workshops. We talked to adult community groups and offered night hikes and prepared an exhibit at a nature center.

Primary communication:


What resources were available/acquired/tapped into?

The total project cost was about $18,000. Grants covered about one-third of the cost and came from GLAHNF, Wal-Mart, Inc., NEW Plastics, Inc. and NEW Audubon, Inc. Revenues from book sales covered the remaining costs.

What level of media exposure were you able to obtain and how did it affect your efforts?

Media is just starting with state newspaper articles. We anticipate exposure on Wisconsin Public Radio and local radio, too.

Other comments: This project could be, and probably should be, duplicated elsewhere. The Minnesota DNR and Minneapolis Audubon representatives have expressed an interest in duplicating this project.

Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon Society
Randy Korb
P.O. Box 1963
Green Bay, WI 54303

Northeastern Wisconsin Audobon Society

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.