The Small Ones

I’ve always loved frogs. A lot of people do. After all, what’s there not to like about them? They’re fascinating creatures, and are fun to observe. Especially the small ones, because nothing can melt a person’s heart like a tiny animal. But what would you do if you killed one, even on accident? Even if it was unavoidable, and was in fact the way nature intended it to be? My group found out the hard way, on a rainy spring afternoon on the WCC campus.

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Author holding Spring Peeper

We were walking to our test area to conduct an experiment on the density of the invasive worm populations in Michigan forests. We had just come over a slope to a pond on the east side of the campus when we noticed a crunching feeling beneath our feet. We looked down to see that we were walking on tiny frogs! We immediately began catching them, attempting to be careful where we walked. It wasn’t long before we began to feel guilty for hurting these frogs. After all, their lives as adults had just begun, and here we were, ending them! Our walk back to the classroom was silent and solemn.

What we saw was the Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer), a frog found throughout eastern North America. It is brown with a vaguely x-shaped marking on it’s back, it’s length ranges from 1-1½ inches long, and it has large toe pads for climbing, although it spends most of its time on the forest floor.

After some research, I discovered that most of these frogs are destined to die. According to the Department of Natural Resources, a single female spring peeper lays between 750-1,200 eggs. The reason that there are so many is because many of the eggs are eaten before they are hatched. After have hatched and become tadpoles, even more are eaten by other in inhabitants of the pond, like fish, birds and newts. Even when they are adults, they are hunted by snakes and bullfrogs.
Despite our collective guilt over the demise of these wonderful creatures, their deaths are just another facet of life. Nature knew that most would die, and found a solution. Just another reason why I love frogs. Especially the small ones.

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