Frog Release 2015: Celebrating the Program that Paved the Way!

by SPP Program Manager, Kelli Bush

On October 6th, SPP partners from Department of Corrections and The Evergreen State College gathered with representatives from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Northwest Trek, and Woodland Park Zoo to release frogs into a Pierce County wetland. This marks the sixth season of the partnership raising federally-threatened Oregon spotted frogs at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (Cedar Creek). It was a joyous occasion as all the partners gathered to release frogs from the three rearing programs.This year Cedar Creek raised 167 frogs and they have raised a total of 879 frogs since the program started in 2009.

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Two Oregon spotted frogs pause for moment before taking a leap into their new home. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

The program is likely to end while scientists focus on learning more about effective recovery strategies. The likely suspension of the program provides an opportunity to reflect on successes and the many contributors who have dedicated their time to this effort.

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Inmate Technician Mr. Anglemeyer saying goodbye to the frogs. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

The Oregon Spotted Frog program is the first known prison animal conservation program in the United States. We were able to do this work because several key science partners were convinced that a collaborative program operated in prisons could contribute to species recovery. Special thanks to biologists Jim Lynch and Marc Hays for recognizing the potential of this program.

Since the program started, 13 inmate technicians have received herpetological training and education. SPP inmate technicians have matched the success of programs hosted at zoo facilities. The current technicians, Mr. Boysen and Mr. Anglemyer, have done excellent work!

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Mr. Boysen measuring frogs with Frog and Turtle Coordinator, Sadie Gilliom. Photo by SPP Liaison Ms. Sibley.

Four corrections staff have served as the SPP Liaison for the program. Each of these staff have accepted this work in addition to their regular duties. Thanks to Ms. Sibley, the current program liaison—her time and dedication has been so important to program operation. Also, special thanks to Superintendent Doug Cole for years of enthusiastic support for the program.

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Ms. Sibley, SPP Liaison holding a tomato from the greenhouse. Photo by Joslyn Trivett.

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Superintendent Cole holding an Oregon spotted frog. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

Six graduate students from Evergreen’s Masters of Environmental Studies program have served as program coordinator. Each student makes important contributions and improvements to the program. Sadie Gilliom is the current program coordinator. Sadie’s program contributions have included science seminars, animal behavior studies, and updated outreach materials.

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Sadie Gilliom releasing a frog. Photo by Kelli Bush.

The Oregon Spotted Frog program at Cedar Creek paved the way for conservation programs in prisons. Through the success of this first program, collaborators proved conservation work can be done well in prisons, and that it can be rewarding for everyone involved.

As a result, new conservation programs have been started in Washington prisons and prisons in other states. SPP partners at Cedar Creek will continue caring for Western pond turtles, another species in need. Now that the frogs are gone we will be keeping an eye out for new science and sustainability programs to introduce to the prison. May these new programs be as successful as the frogs!

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The SPP frog release team. Photo by frog recovery team collaborator.

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