Tree frog leaps from endangered to threatened list


Site Administrator
Sep 17, 2002

May 3, 2003

Tree frog leaps from endangered to threatened list
By DEREK HARPER Staff Writer, (609) 272-7203

Twenty-plus years of strict development restrictions have paid off for at least one small member of the Pinelands community.

The Pine Barrens tree frog hopped off the state endangered species list Friday. The move, after 24 years, came when the state Department of Environmental Protection upgraded the animal's status from endangered to threatened. The state first considered the move last summer.

While habitat protections remain the same for the colorful 11/2-inch frogs, the "downlisting" reflects a growing confidence in their long-term survival, DEP spokesman Jack Kaskey said.

Endangered species are at risk of extinction. Threatened species are sparse but viable. "It's a notch below, but it's a better notch," Kaskey said.

DEP biologists recently determined the frog is locally abundant and that its habitat is well protected by the Pinelands Commission's Comprehensive Management Plan. The plan keeps out most large-scale development and strictly regulates other growth.

Development can easily upset the frog's native habitat. The frogs lay eggs in seasonal, isolated ponds that exist only in winter and spring. They prefer Atlantic white cedar swamps carpeted with sphagnum moss. They rely on mosquitoes for food.

Until recently, the ponds did not qualify for wetlands protections. And this state combats mosquitoes aggressively.

But in recent years the state has increased protection for the 10,000 ponds, or vernal pools, the frogs rely on, Kaskey said.

The downlisting was good news for Chris Claus. The principal park naturalist of the Cattus Island County Park in Ocean County leads nighttime frog-listening tours. The next one is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. May 15. While the news was encouraging, "time will tell if the frog is out of danger," he said.

Preservationists were delighted by the news.

"It's still holding on by a thread. We just know that the thread is a lot thicker than it was 20 years ago," said Carlton Montgomery, executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

Pinelands Commission Chair Jim Florio, who as a congressional representative in the 1970s helped create legislation to set aside the pinelands, said the news further justifies the pinelands legislation. "Now it is clear that but for the Pinelands Preservation Act there are a lot of things that would be gone, and not just the Pine Barrens tree frog,"

The frogs are one of the most distinct animals of New Jersey's pinelands. Green with a lavender stripe of a mask across the eyes, the animal was included by artist Andy Warhol alongside the Siberian tiger, bald eagle and African elephant in his 1983 endangered animals print series.

The frogs are found throughout New Jersey's pinelands. At night, their distinctive "quonk-quonk-quonk" mating call can be heard during May and June.

The DEP has the frog's mating call online at

While the frogs live in isolated patches of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and western Florida, their biggest communities are in cedars swamps of this state's pinelands. New Jersey is also where they first were found.

To e-mail Derek Harper at The Press:


It's great to hear that the Pine Barrens Treefrog is a viable population, in great abundance in the Pine Barrens. It's also neat to hear it by clicking on the link you posted, Guy. I clicked at I was brought right to my Windows Media Player. You hear the honk of the treefrog, and then to hear it again I just hit "play" (it again, Sam) on the media player. I thought I heard a Pine Barrens Treefrog in a building in Philadelpha, but it was just the native-abrasive Philadelphia accent. :wink:

It wasn't the Pine Barrens and its development restrictions alone that helped boost the Pine Barrens Treefrog population and elevate it from endangered to threatened species. (I wouldn't say, as did Carton Montgomery from the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, that the species was just hanging on by a thread.) Remember the efforts by the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife and how successful it was.

There is much land in New Jersey where the treefrog can thrive, including areas in the vast acrage that the Division of Fish and Wildlife manage. The one place where I could find a more complete habitat description of the treefrog's habitat, where cranberry bogs was included, was from the Pine Barrens Commission.

That's interesting that the treefrogs rely on mosquitos for food and that, in the article, it's implied that combating mosquitos agressively may threaten the treefrog population. It's good that treefrogs eat mosquitos and other pests, but a question arises about spraying for mosquitos. If mosquitos are in areas where the treefrogs are plentiful, they will minimize the mosquitos population. But for habitat that treefrogs and mosquitos share where there are very few or no treefrogs, then should it be sprayed. It's sort of a chicken-and-egg question. I would hope that in the event of a threat such as West Nile Virus, that responsible people would spray the mosquitos.

It's a good idea, by the way, to spray oneself with bug repellent. I just pulled a fat, well-fed blood sucking tick off off Dolly. I don't know if she got it here or in the Pine Barrens. I haven't visited the Pine Barrens for awhile, but a few days ago visited the Assupink Wildlife Management area, which is roughly 10 miles east of Trenton.

Interestingly, it was Cattus Island County Park Chief Naturalist Chris Claus who had explained to me some time ago during my visit there about Mosquito Bay in the park. The naturalist said that there was a resident mosquito population there, and to keep its' population in check, channels were opened to allow fish to come in to eat some of them. At lease the mosquito population would be contained that way.

The frog-listening tour at Cattus Island County Park on May 15 sounds interesting, but it is a Thursday night. Not the best night for me to travel that far. Well, maybe.



Date: 030531


By Lawrence R. Hajna, Courier-Post Columnist, May 31, 2003

This is the time of year when the quonk-quonk-quonking of male Pine
Barrens tree frogs enlivens the nighttime scene around ponds,
cranberry bogs and cedar swamps all across the Pinelands.

The distinctive call is the tree frog's pick-up line, a way of
hooking up with girl Pine Barrens tree frogs.

"It's fascinating, really," says Howard Boyd, a Tabernacle naturalist
who has studied the region's wildlife since 1938.

"You hear it off in the distance and, before you know it, you're upon
choruses of tree frogs. I can go out almost any evening, it's almost

Hmmm, like Saturday nights at the Coastline.

Although common in the Pine Barrens, the tree frog has been on the
state's endangered species list since 1979 - the same year the
Pinelands Commission was formed to control development in the million-
acre Pinelands National Reserve.

This month, the Department of Environmental Protection upgraded the
tree frog's protection status from endangered to threatened, meaning
it's no longer deemed to be in grave peril.

The DEP says the tree frog's leap "is testimony to how effective the
Pinelands Commission has been at preserving southern New Jersey's
natural treasures."

No doubt the species would have been worse off without regional
development controls to protect its mating turf. But the Pine Barrens
tree frog was never in danger of being wiped out, Boyd says.

From the outset, its designation as endangered was more a reflection
of a general concern about protecting the ecologically unique region
from development than a grim outlook for the species.

"The Pine Barrens tree frog requires specialized habitats that are
rare elsewhere but common in the million-acre Pinelands region of
southern New Jersey," a DEP press release states.

The species has lost much of its habitat along other parts of the
East Coast, especially in North Carolina. So the upgrade should not be
interpreted as meaning "the tree frog is out of the woods," argues
Carleton Montgomery of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

"The tree frog still needs our vigilance and our help. While it still
has this little island on which to thrive in the Pine Barrens, that's
all it has," he says.

As a practical matter, upgrading its status now does not afford the
tree frog any lesser or greater legal protection from development
projects, Montgomery says.

But Boyd fears there's a danger in sending the wrong message to the
public that things are just fine in the Pinelands.

The tree frog has grown into the unofficial symbol of the Pinelands,
a cute and almost huggable emblem of the struggle between preservation
and development.

It's also one of Boyd's favorites, a docile animal that often will
rest in the palm of his hand while he examines it.

"It's a charming little thing," he says.

Boyd describes the species in his definitive Pine Barrens field guide
as "bright emerald green with a broad band of lavender bordered by
white." It grows to a mere 1 1/2 inches in length.

But Boyd points out that tree frog habitat, though vast, is still
being lost piecemeal to development despite Pinelands protections.

"The (threatened listing) is probably a more accurate reflection of
the tree frog's status," Boyd says. "I'm not sure it's the right thing
to do, however. If I had my choice, I'd leave it where it was."

* * *


bach2yoga said:
From the outset, its designation as endangered was more a reflection
of a general concern about protecting the ecologically unique region
from development than a grim outlook for the species.

"The (threatened listing) is probably a more accurate reflection of
the tree frog's status," Boyd says. "I'm not sure it's the right thing
to do, however. If I had my choice, I'd leave it where it was."

* * *

See, this is that I've been telling you. The endangered species alarm has been just a way to stop development, etc. and for politicians, certain environmentalists, people in commissions and bureaus to strut around like a peacock.

Cranberry bogs is one of the Pine Barrens Tree Frogs habitats, and the people who responsibly care for the land deserve a tip of the hat. I think Aldo Leopoold would. I just read where he discussed a land use ethic, which must come from within a person.

Bureaucrats, politicians and environmentalists are reluctant to upgrade the tree frog's status. I understand this upgrade happened some time ago. This is analogous to the way media handled the story of the black student in LIttle Rock Arkansas (I forget her name) who, in the late 50's, drank out of a WHITES ONLY drinking fountain. The mainstream media told the story of a white student who, upon seeing the black high school girl drinking from the forbidden fountain, yelled [sic] What does that n... think she's doing?!" This was more or less the end of the story for the mainstream media. But, alternative media reported the rest of the story. At some point between now and back in the late 50's, the white girl apologized to the black girl for her mean remark. And they became friends! The two women were on Fox News together. See, some people don't want problems solved. They don't care so much about doing right, but want people to be dependant on them for their salvation, which makes them feel good, they get attention, power, and money.