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Experts say several factors to why frogs, turtles are dying off

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POSTED: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 6:39pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 7:01pm

It's the time of the year in which people spend more time outside.

And while you're there, you may notice fewer frogs and turtles around.

There is a reason why, and it may matter more than you think.

Experts in the area say there isn't just one reason behind it -- there are several theories as to why these animals are sadly dying off.

Herpetologist and Professor of Biology at UT Tyler Dr. Neil Ford has heard lots of talk from fellow biologists about why amphibians are disappearing.

" ... The folks that worked on frogs would get together and talked about when they went back to the area that they did their research ... the frogs were all gone," he said, recalling what he heard at a conference.  

He says fellow biologists are worried.

Theories to why include an increase in ultraviolet sunlight as a result of holes in the ozone layer, pesticide use, human hormones that are present in our water systems and habitat destruction, said Regional Fisheries Biologist Richard Ott.

Frogs aren't the only green creature being threatened either.

We're told box turtles are also becoming less and less common.

"We think that could be related to over collection of them for the commercial food market and for the pet trade shipping them overseas, " Ott said.

Here in East Texas, ants are a big problem, too.

"They can consume these ground dwelling animals directly and consume their eggs and their young," Ott said.

Dr. Ford says biologists are also studying new diseases that are hurting both amphibians and reptiles.

"One of the big ones is Chytrid Fungus, which originated in Africa," Dr. Ford said. "We've got a virus called Ranavirus that's attacking box turtles."

Why should we care about frogs and turtles?

"It's like the canary in a coal mine. If they are having impacts on frogs, they could potentially have an impact on us too," Dr. Ford said. "So supporting that kind of work, the basic research as to why these things are happening, is very important."

People can also go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website and report when they have seen certain endangered animals, so biologists can take note for research.

So, what can you do to help?

Ott says if you see a turtle crossing the road, don't intentionally run over it, but you run the risk of moving disease from turtle to turtle by picking them up, too.

He says the easiest thing you can do for frogs is provide them with natural water habitats in your yard, so the tadpoles won't run the risk of being eaten by ... say fish, like in a tank or pond.

Go to Texas Parks and Wildlife website here.

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