Rouge Frog and Toad Survey wants you to hop to it

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published February 21, 2017

 A green frog is one of a number of frog species within the Rouge River watershed.

A green frog is one of a number of frog species within the Rouge River watershed.

Photo provided by Sally Petrella


FARMINGTON HILLS — When nightfall descends upon the Farmington Hills area, the Friends of the Rouge want you to step outside and listen for the onomatopoeic sounds of “ribbit, ribbit.”

It is the time of year to put a passion for protecting amphibians to work for the community through the 20th annual Rouge Frog and Toad Survey.

The Rouge River Watershed Frog and Toad Survey is a volunteer listening survey that requires volunteers to distinguish the breeding calls of eight types of frogs and toads found in the watershed, said Sally Petrella, volunteer monitoring program manager for the Friends of the Rouge.

Surveyors will select a quarter-square-mile area within the watershed to survey when it is dark outside.

Completed forms will be returned to the Friends of the Rouge, who compile, map and report on the data.

Frogs and toads are used as indicators of wetland vitality, and the animals leave the wetlands when the wetlands are too polluted, according to a press release.  

The Friends of the Rouge are looking for volunteers to sign up for a training workshop to assist with the survey 10 a.m.-noon Feb. 25 at Farmington Hills City Hall, 31555 W. 11 Mile Road.

“We’ve been doing the survey since 1998,” Petrella said, adding that the group began with about 200 volunteers and grew to as many as 600.

“We had no idea if anybody would be interested,” she said, adding that the purpose of the survey is to get people out into the local wetlands to learn about their value.

“We’re hoping to get a lot of people out there to investigate,” she said. Surveyors will be given a CD of frog and toad calls and will be assigned their own survey area within the Rouge River watershed, Petrella said.

The Rouge River, whose upper branch runs through Heritage Park, has four main branches — the main, the upper, the middle and the lower — that comprise 126 river miles.

The Rouge River drains through 467 miles in three counties and 48 municipalities in metro Detroit. The watershed communities are also home to nearly 1.35 million people, according to

Petrella said there are a total of 13 species of frogs and toads in the state, and the FOTR have identified eight of them in the River Rouge.

“The most common is the American toad, which is a little more tolerant species,” she said, adding that the second-most common would be the green frog. “Some of the more sensitive species tend to be found in the headwaters region farther out, around Walled Lake (and into the) … outer reaches of Canton … Salem Township.”

She said that in Farmington and Farmington Hills, the area is not as diverse for frogs as outlying areas.

“We have lots of people who are interested in frogs and toads, and their kids are interested in frogs and toads — and people really enjoy doing the survey,” she said.

Commerce Township resident Lori Karlow said she has a lot of fun taking the frog and toad surveys, which she does near her home in the M-5 corridor and Welch Road area.

“My interest in frogs and toads started when I lived in the Farmington area as a girl,” she said. “It’s always been a huge interest of mine.”

Karlow, who has been with the FOTR for about six years, said that she usually hears the spring peeper first.

“They all have a unique call when their mating season comes — that is actually what we identify when we go out,” she said. “We don’t necessarily see the frogs, but we hear the frogs.”

Pre-register for the workshop by calling the Friends of the Rouge at (313) 792-9900.