A bullfrog is captured at Wyman's Living History Ranch and Museum by students doing a study on deformities in frog populations in Colorado. No deformed frogs were found during the teams visit to Northwest Colorado on Wednesday.

Photo by Dan Olsen

A bullfrog is captured at Wyman's Living History Ranch and Museum by students doing a study on deformities in frog populations in Colorado. No deformed frogs were found during the teams visit to Northwest Colorado on Wednesday.

Amphibians hopping at Wyman's

Frog study finds no deformities in area population

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Conducting a study on the health of Colorado frogs, a team of students, Boulder High School senior Robert Adams, from left, Don Larson of University of Alaska, Fairbanks and University of Colorado biologists Anna Peterson and August Jensen visited Craig on Wednesday. The local frog population appears to be in good health, they said.

— The peaceful croaking of the frogs in the oxbow next to the Yampa River east of Craig was interrupted by the swish of dropping nets and a cheer of success from the captors.

A group of three college students and a high school senior from Boulder made their way from the Front Range to Wyman's Living History Ranch and Museum on Wednesday, swinging nets and scooping dippers into the former section on the river now bypassed on the museum property as part of a survey on Colorado frogs.

"We're in Craig looking for malformed frogs," University of Colorado biologist August Jensen said. "In the Midwest and West, there have been high levels of deformities found in the frog populations."

The group found a large number of frogs at the museum's pond. In their area of study, teams can go many days without finding one of the elusive hoppers.

At Wyman, they managed to capture 103 "metamorphs" and eight adults.

They checked one other Craig area pond and the Yampa River before returning to Boulder.

The reason the study is being conducted in Craig is because in the 1930s, chickens in Northwest Colorado came down with a specific parasite that the team is looking for. It is thought the parasite might lead to deformities in the amphibians.

No signs of the parasite have been found in Colorado this year.

The group said they have found great numbers of salamanders, but they also have seen only low numbers of leopard frogs.

Don Larson from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks is working with the group from Boulder.

"It's exciting to find this many frogs," he said.

Inspired by a study by Pieter Johnson, who was published on the subject of frog deformities in 1999, the group dedicated itself to explore the frog population in Colorado and check health issues in the species.

"Since May, we've been going around looking for frogs," Anna Peterson said.

The CU biology major and friends were happy to report that no deformed frogs were found in the pond at the Wyman museum, and the study moved next to an area near Loudy-Simpson Park for a check of the river's frogs.

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext.207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com

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