Teacher, Students Push To Make Spring Peeper Massachusetts' Official State Amphibian

Feb 4, 2019

Among the thousands of bills Massachusetts legislators have put forward this year, one would designate a frog called the spring peeper as the state amphibian.

In the 1970s, Massachusetts schoolchildren helped the ladybug become the official state insect, and in the 1980s, they pushed successfully for the tabby cat to become the official state feline.

In 2011, a second-grade class in Fitchburg learned about all that and wanted to help another creature attain recognition.

Their teacher, Deb Jeffers, said the students found their candidate in school one day.

"Our reading program had a book that included [the] spring peeper and a poem that went with it," Jeffers said.  "And once I showed the kids what a spring peeper was and they heard the sound, they loved it and said, 'Well, can we do that?'"

They found a lawmaker to offer a bill, but it didn't pass. Jeffers persisted and state Senator Dean Tran has introduced a new bill to give the peeper its due.

"I won't give up on this," she said. "It's a real learning experience for the kids, as well. These children now -- they are in high school. I'd really love to see this go through before they graduate."

Tom Lautzenheiser, a scientist with Mass Audubon, said he'd personally vote for the gray treefrog. But he said the spring peeper is still a fitting choice for state amphibian.

"Massachusetts is a pretty small state, but we really carry a lot of great ideas forward in the country and the spring peeper is sort of the same way," Lautzenheiser said. "It's a small frog, but it really makes itself known." 

He's talking about its mating sound.

Deb Jeffers said the spring peeper deserves to be the state amphibian, because it brings happiness to so many people.

"After the long cold winters, it's nice to have that sound that you can listen to and know that nice weather is here and spending time outdoors," she said. "It just brings smiles."