Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites
Spring 2009             

Dear Junior Ranger,
Spring, my favorite time of year, has arrived!  The birds are singing, the frogs are calling, the wildflowers are popping up and the air smells fresh.  Go outside and look for and listen to the signs of spring! 
Let me know what you find.
Cindy Reittinger
Chief Naturalist, Georgia State Parks
Also in this Issue:
* Spring Happenings
* Meet a Herpetologist
* Junior Ranger Riddle
* More About Frogs

Cool Critter

Can you identify this cool Georgia critter? 

Be the first Junior Ranger to correctly identify this animal and win a free Park Pass - good for free admission to all Georgia State Parks for a whole year!  Email your answer to the Chief Naturalist.
Junior Ranger Riddle
Can you and your family solve the Junior Ranger Riddle?

Solve the riddle below and get free admission to the site described.  To gain free admission you must copy the riddle and present it at the site.  You should email the Chief Naturalist before planning your trip to confirm that you have solved the riddle correctly.  Free admission will be granted for you and your immediate family for one day.  The offer is valid until December 1, 2009.  Hint: It may be helpful to refer to our free Park Guide available at all Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites or review the site descriptions on our website.

Which Georgia State Park or Historic Site Am I?

You'll be awed and amazed
by my beauty and grace
When you come here to hike
in this far-removed place.

Erosion has taken
its toll on the land.
Resulting in many
deep gullies in sand.

Sand colors and canyons
and hikes to the "floor",
keep visitors coming
to see and explore.
Meet A Herpetologist

John Jensen, wildlife biologist (and herpetologist) for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has been studying alligator snapping turtles in Spring Creek (Decatur County, Ga.) for the past 12 years.

Do you think you might want to be a herpetologist when you grow up?  John shares his background in this special interview for Junior Rangers.

What inspired you to become a herpetologist?
As a kid growing up in Stone Mountain I spent lots of time playing outdoors and catching herps - those were the animals that I could catch.  I caught frogs, turtles, lizards and snakes - everything but alligators!

What are your job responsibilities?
I am responsible for the conservation efforts related to 164 species of reptiles and amphibians in Georgia.  Most of my work focuses on the endangered and threatened species.  Conservation work includes surveying - which means finding out where the animals live; and monitoring them, which means determining how many there are and if the numbers are going up, or down or remaining stable.  I also do research, write laws and regulations to protect herps and educate people who want to learn more about herps.

What do you like most about your job?
Being outdoors in the fields and forests - being in nature.

What advice would you give a Junior Ranger who may be interested in becoming a herpetologist when they grow up?
Look for events at nature centers and parks that include field trips to look for wildlife.  Even if you are just interested in herps you should learn about all kinds of animals and plants and their habitats.  Get to know a knowledgeable adult who shares your interest so that you can learn from them.

What did you study in college that helped you become a herpetologist?
Zoology courses mostly including ornithology, ichthyology, mammalogy, and herpetology (of course!) as well as ecology, botany and wildlife management.
Help Scientists Count Frogs
There are two frog monitoring programs that are looking for volunteers who can recognize the calls of Georgia frogs.  Junior Rangers and their families may want to consider getting involved.  The North American Amphibian Monitoring Program for Georgia is coordinated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and requires volunteers to adopt a survey area to monitor for three years.  Frogwatch is coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and requires volunteers to monitor wetlands in their community at least twice a week during the breeding period.
More About Frogs

For young Junior Rangers:
Jackson's Plan by Linda Talley
- An illustrated frog tale set in the Okefenokee Swamp.

Frog Songs:
Calls of the Wild: Vocalizations of Georgia's Frogs  (CD)
Includes a small informative booklet on Georgia's frogs.

Hiking Tips

1.  Don't hike alone - the   buddy system is safer.

2.  Always tell someone where you are going.

More hiking tips

Get Outdoors with Other Families

Interested in forming a Nature Club with families in your community?  The Children and Nature Network recently created a Nature Clubs for Families ToolkitGet Outdoors with other families and enjoy the wonders of nature!

Photo Credits:
Cool Critter, Giff  Beaton
Herpetologist, Bill Birkhead
Cope's Gray Treefrog, Dirk Stevenson
Eastern Spadefoot, John Jensen
Green Frog, John Jensen

Leap Into Spring
Discover Georgia's Frogs

There are 31 different kinds of frogs that live in Georgia.  Some of them live only in north Georgia, some of them live only in south Georgia and others have a more limited range.  The six frog species that live all over the state are described below.

The bullfrog is probably the most familiar frog in Georgia.  This large, mostly green frog is the largest frog in the United States.
Two species of treefrog occur statewide; the green tree frog and Cope's gray treefrog.  The color pattern of Cope's gray treefrog (pictured at right) helps it to blend in against lichen-covered tree bark.  The green treefrog, our state amphibian (and the Cool Critter featured in the Winter 2009 Georgia Junior Ranger) is bright green with a white stripe down each side.   Like most treefrogs both have expanded pads on the tips of their toes and an extra joint in their toes which make them excellent climbers.

Frog Calls
The best way to identify a frog is by its call.  Frog calls include a wide variety of sounds- from snoring and duck-like calls to the dull twang of a loose banjo string. The spring peeper with an X-shaped marking on its back produces a series of high-pitched, bird-like "peeps".  If you hear what sounds like "somebody rubbing their fingers on an inflated balloon" you are hearing a southern leopard frog.  The secretive eastern spadefoot (pictured below) is perhaps Georgia's oddest frog.  It's call sounds like "someone puking" and the pupils of its eyes, which are vertical rather than horizontal like other Georgia frogs, give it an unusual appearance.  
Things to do:
*  Click on the links above to see and hear the six Georgia frogs that occur statewide.
*  Test Your Frog IQ (below)

Test Your Frog IQ

1.  Which of the following frogs live in Georgia?  
     More than one may be correct.
  • Pig Frog
  • Gopher Frog
  • Leopard Frog
  • Squirrel Treefrog
  • Cricket Frog
2.  True or False
All toads are frogs but, not all frogs are toads.
3.  How many different kinds of frogs live in Georgia?
  • 13
  • 31
  • 14
  • 41
  • 40
4.  Which of the following does not describe the call of a Georgia frog?
  • Baa, baa like a sheep
  • Grunting like a pig
  • Ribbit, ribbit
  • A carpenter nailing shingles
  • Rubbing your finger along the teeth of a comb

Fourth Graders Hop Into History

April 26, 2005:  Armuchee Elementary students and their teachers were at the State Capitol when Governor Perdue signed the bill declaring the green tree frog our state amphibian.
Thanks to a class of students at  Armuchee Elementary in Rome, Georgia we now have a state amphibian.  When the students were studying our state symbols in the fourth grade they noticed that Georgia did not have a state amphibian.  They took the matter to heart and lobbied our lawmakers to select the green treefrog.  It was a unique educational experience for the students incorporating lessons in language arts (letter-writing and research) and social sciences (how a bill becomes a law) as well as science.  It took nearly three years to make it happen.

Is it a Frog or a Toad?
A toad is a type of frog.  Toads typically have short hind legs for hopping rather than long hind legs for leaping like other frogs.  They also have drier skin.  The frog in the picture is a Fowler's toad

Things to do:
*  Listen to recordings of the four toad species found in Georgia: American Toad, Fowler's ToadSouthern Toad & Oak Toad
*  Go to a pond or other wetland at night & listen for frogs
Spring Happenings
Spring is an exciting time of year.   Take a sketchbook or camera to document your adventure and enjoy time in the outdoors!

Fun sites to consider visiting this spring:
Okefenokee Swamp
Spring is the most popular time to visit the world famous Okefenokee swamp and see alligators. Enjoy a boat tour (or rent a boat) at Stephen C. Foster State Park on the west side of the swamp near Fargo or at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on the east side of the swamp near Folkston.

Pinewoods Bird Festival, April 11, 2009
The whole family can enjoy learning about birds at the beautiful Pebble Hill Plantation in Thomasville.  The event includes field trips via wagon rides as well as children's activities.  Kids can get in free by completing a coloring page posted on the festival website.

Happy Birthday to Roosevelt's Little White House, May 2, 2009
In May of 1932, a housewarming party was thrown to celebrate the construction of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt's home in Warm Springs.  His home is now the Little White House State Historic Site.  Enjoy cookies and lemonade on the sundeck, just like the guests at the original housewarming.  Look for the unfinished portrait that was being painted of FDR before he died and enjoy the wonderful museum there too.
Amphibian Monitoring Workshop, May 29, 2009
Look for amphibians and learn frog calls with a herpetologist on a night hike at Smithgall Woods Conservation Area in Helen. 

Frog IQ Answers

1.  All live in Georgia
2.  True
3.  31
4.  Ribbit, ribbit

The Pacific Treefrog, native to the Western U.S., is the only frog that says ribbit, ribbit.
The Eastern Narrowmouth Toad sounds like a sheep.
The Pig Frog sounds like a grunting pig.
The Carpenter Frog sounds like somebody nailing shingles.
The Chorus Frogs sound like somebody running their fingers along the teeth of a comb.

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