Bits 'n' Pieces: Count 'em all at yearly critter day

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 

As a Clark County tree frog, or at least taking on the personality of one, Cory Samia has some important information to share with her human neighbors.

Samia, the water and wetlands educator at the Water Resources Education Center, says her fellow tree frogs are sensitive about pollutants in the environment.

“As a tree frog, I want to say — don’t use poisons on your lawn or garden, because I breathe in those poisons through my skin, and it can kill my eggs,” Samia said.

And if you want to participate in the center’s 14th annual Critter Count this year, she also hopes if you pick up any of her frog, snake, salamander or lizard friends, that you say hello and then put them back where you found them.

“As a tree frog, I really like the fact that I can swim around and can also climb trees and camouflage myself,” Samia said. “That way I can see you and you can’t always see me.”

Visitors to the center on Saturday can learn a lot more about frogs, lizards, snakes and other reptiles.

At 9 a.m. an expert in amphibians and reptiles will give visitors an overview of the various types of creatures that live in Clark County. After that, visitors will go to one of four sites to look for and count the critters they find.

“We try to get people to look for herps — that’s what we call amphibians and reptiles — for about two hours,” Samia said. “Then we add them all into a database for the state.”

Herp is short for herpetology, the zoology branch that studies the two types of animals.

The critter-o-rama won’t be done after the counting. From 1 to 3:30 p.m. there will be two reptile shows put on by Brad’s World Reptiles.

“He’ll talk about the difficulty in taking care of frogs, snakes, turtles and other herps,” Samia said. “And we’ll have kids’ activities.”

Tree frogs are probably the most common herp in the area right now, or at least the noisiest, she said.

It’s breeding season, and the males are making a racket to attract females.

“We also find garter snakes, northwest salamanders, lizards and lots of other creatures,” Samia said. “But remember it’s illegal to take wildlife out of the wild, unless you have special permission as a wildlife educator.”

Moving wildlife can cause the spread of disease, which is problematic since Northwestern frog habitat has been threatened by a deadly fungus. The center will sterilize footwear and other gear before the counting trips begin, she said.

“Herps are a vital part of the food web,” Samia said. “Tree frogs produce thousands of tadpoles that are food for fish, and the frogs, they also eat insects.”

Back in tree frog form, Samia paused in consideration of those insects.

“I do like mosquitos a lot,” Samia’s frog persona said hungrily. “But I also like crickets. I like bugs. Yum!”

The Critter Count and wildlife shows are free and open to the public. They begin at the Water Resources Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Special thanks to Samia, who was willing to pretend to be a frog when we asked her to. Kermit was unavailable.


Bits ’n’ Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you’d like to share, email bits@columbian.com.