A Couple 2017 South Central Alaska Highlights

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jamezevanz
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A Couple 2017 South Central Alaska Highlights

Post by jamezevanz »

Howdy herpers. Long time no post. Happy to finally see an integrated photo function. Sad to see the California forum gone...

First, if you're looking at a South Central Alaska post and expecting to see anything but Wood Frogs, prepare to be disappointed.

But these two finds were really special.

The first was found in July in my very own backyard north of Anchorage. Not outside their range or particularly unexpected, but it's exciting to have herps in the yard so far north. I doubt I'll see many of them here, however, as we are pretty far from the nearest water. Most wood frogs I find are in the vicinity of water sources. But this could be a biased observation, given that I spend most of my summer fly fishing or trudging through a swamp to work on my shack.

The second find was a little more spectacular. I had heard that there were breeding populations of wood frogs above the treeline in the Chugach Mountains near Anchorage. But I was not expecting to find them well above the treeline almost 200 miles to the North in the foothills of the Alaska Range. While camped beside a tundra pond at 3,900ft on a hunting trip, I came across two wood frogs in a tundra seep which drained into the pond. The one I was able to catch was the fattest wood frog I've ever seen.

It was approaching mid-August so I don't think this could have been a gravid female. Snow typically falls there by mid-September, often earlier. I did see another frog escape right next to her, but I did not hear any calling while I was up there. Anchorage area wood frogs typically wrap up their breeding in May. Surely she was just well fed?

In any case, I think this must be at the very extreme of wood frog habitat in Alaska. Most of the range maps I've seen suggest they don't make it much past the tree line on the north slope of Alaska. While these frogs were far south of that northern limit, the altitude makes it very similar in terms of weather and habitat. They are the first I've found so far from their usual thick boreal forest habitat. In fact, aside from a few twiggie black spruce along river bottoms, there there really isn't any forest for 20 miles or more in any direction.

I shot my first caribou the next day less than 100 yards away, so I consider these frogs good luck (as do the Native Athabascans). I look forward to seeing them again next August.
Attachments
My first backyard Wood Frog. Both my home and my shack property are now confirmed as wood frog habit.
My first backyard Wood Frog. Both my home and my shack property are now confirmed as wood frog habit.
Tundra frog upon capture.
Tundra frog upon capture.
Close-up.
Close-up.
Dorsal view (fattie).
Dorsal view (fattie).
With vegetation-- dwarf birch, willow, tundra grasses, and lichens.
With vegetation-- dwarf birch, willow, tundra grasses, and lichens.
The pond as seen the evening before (it still doesn't really get dark in August). Frogs were found about midway along the nearest shore.
The pond as seen the evening before (it still doesn't really get dark in August). Frogs were found about midway along the nearest shore.
Looking back toward the pond with my tent on the side where the frogs were found.
Looking back toward the pond with my tent on the side where the frogs were found.
The nearest "wood" are a few stunted black spruce at the bottom of this valley (as seen from the far side of the pond).
The nearest "wood" are a few stunted black spruce at the bottom of this valley (as seen from the far side of the pond).

FrogO_Oeyes
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Re: A Couple 2017 South Central Alaska Highlights

Post by FrogO_Oeyes »

I've heard wood frogs in Inuvik NWT, calling from lakes bordered by pine/spruce forest. Saw them in Fort McPherson, as well. In Ft. McPherson, the treeline follows the Peel River valley, but I only saw them at the pond in town. Never saw or heard them on the tundra itself, and never really explored the valley. I know they occur north of the treeline in Yukon. I'd have to look at my AK/YT/NWT field guide to see what the old records actually show.

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jamezevanz
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Re: A Couple 2017 South Central Alaska Highlights

Post by jamezevanz »

Wow, that’s way up there. I know UAF studies them up into the Brooks Range but I don’t know if there’s any confirmed from North of there in Alaska. I’d really like to take a rambling drive up the Dalton Highway toward Prudhoe Bay and try to record some in the North Slope Borough.

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SurfinHerp
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Re: A Couple 2017 South Central Alaska Highlights

Post by SurfinHerp »

Very interesting Jamez. That truly is an obese wood frog!

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mtratcliffe
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Re: A Couple 2017 South Central Alaska Highlights

Post by mtratcliffe »

Awesome! I enjoy seeing reports from AK, even if it's just for Wood Frogs. The habitat shots are amazing and remind me how Alaska is its own world. And yet, I am connected to it through this species, which are found both in vast tundra landscapes and my own backyard on the other side of the continent in Virginia.

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ClosetHerper
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Re: A Couple 2017 South Central Alaska Highlights

Post by ClosetHerper »

Nice finds. You don't have to go too far from home to see the Boreal Toads here in Cordova/Prince William Sound, although reports are they are not as numerous as they used to be.

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