By Bob Brett,
Like many locals, especially four year olds
with buckets, my first encounter with Whistler’s amphibians was with the
western toad tadpoles at Lost Lake. Since then, I’ve learned there are at least
five more species of amphibians in our area, not to mention a couple of
My first-hand discovery occurred when I was
lucky enough to accompany amphibian researchers this summer as part of the
Whistler Biodiversity Project. After donning very fashionable hip waders, we
sloshed through Whistler’s swamps and streams and found lots of amphibian life.
There were tailed frogs in cold, fast-running
mountain streams on both sides of the valley; and green, tropical-looking
Pacific chorus frogs (a.k.a. tree frogs) in small and large ponds throughout
Salamander sightings included huge
northwestern salamanders, long-toed salamanders with beautiful yellow stripes
down their back, and photogenic rough-skinned newts with skin that was, well,
We unfortunately didn’t find any red-legged
frogs, the blue-listed species that gained temporary fame when its presence
briefly halted construction on the highway expansion through Eagleridge Bluffs.
But since we found them last year above Black Tusk Village, there’s still hope
some make Whistler home, too.
On the other hand, we were happy not to find
any bullfrogs (yet). This huge frog — big enough it can eat ducks —
is native to eastern North America. It was introduced to the Vancouver area in
the late 1800s as part of a get-rich scheme to sell frog legs. The idea was a
bust, so the owners released bullfrogs in the Fraser Valley. Ever since,
bullfrogs have proliferated to the detriment of native species.
Next Wednesday the 15th, there’s a chance to
learn more when the Whistler Naturalists host a night of all things amphibian
and some things reptilian. Three extremely knowledgeable presenters will be on
hand for the event.
Local high school student Connor McGillion,
known to many as host of the Children’s Arts Festival, has been splashing
around in swamps since he was a kid. His interest in pond life started with
insects, but has spawned into many aspects of the natural world. Connor will
start the night with an introduction to Whistler’s amphibians and reptiles.
Amphibian biologist Elke Wind was lead
researcher for the project. Elke will give a bit more detail on what makes
these creatures tick and where to find them. She’ll also describe research
that’s happened this past year, and where the different species have been
Unlike the other presenters, Leslie Anthony is
a bit of a snake in the grass. Who knew this Whistler ski journalist (and
former editor of Powder Magazine) had a Ph.D. in herpetology? Leslie is a very
engaging speaker who will recount highlights of his lifelong interest in things
that crawl and slither.
Everyone is welcome at the Naturalists AGM which starts at 6:30 at Millennium Place. The feature presentation “Into the Swamp” follows at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 15 th at Millennium Place: Whistler Naturalists Annual General Meeting (6:30 p.m.) and feature presentation “Into the Swamp” (7:30 p.m.). All welcome to the AGM. Admission by donation to the feature presentation. For more details call Bob at 604-932-8900.