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Cedar Creek Corrections Center Inmates Prepare Frogs for Release

October 6, 2015

By Rachel Thomson

DOC Communications

A frog sits on a person's hand

LITTLEROCK – William Anglemyer removes the cover of a circular black tank. Almost immediately, a brown frog with black speckles hops onto a floating gray matt in search of crickets. A few seconds later, the heads of about a dozen more of the slimy amphibians poke out of the water, their beady eyes set on Anglemyer.

“You have to be careful because if they see your shadow, they’ll hide,” Anglemyer says.

Anglemyer, 41, is an inmate at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. He’s also a frog technician at the prison’s Oregon spotted frog rearing program. Since 2009, inmates have raised Oregon spotted frogs in tanks at the prison. Since February, Anglemyer and other inmate frog technicians watched eggs hatch and witnessed the transformation from tadpoles into adult frogs. Now they’re saying goodbye to the frogs, which are being released this week in south Pierce County.

The frog-rearing program is one of many within the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP). SPP is a collaboration between the Department of Corrections, The Evergreen State College and other partners that leads science and conservation projects at each of the DOC’s prisons. Other wildlife conservation projects at prisons around the state include beekeeping and rearing of the Taylor’s checkerspot and Pacific Northwest monarch butterfly species.

The Oregon Spotted frog is a federally threatened species, according to Gina Sibley, a classification counselor at Cedar Creek Corrections who also helps oversee SPP efforts. Invasive plant species, predation and the loss of wetlands have all contributed to the spotted frog’s decline. As much as 70 percent of its natural habitat has been lost in recent decades.

The frog project was the first SPP conservation program, according to Kelli Bush SPP Program Manager. Since its first year, inmates have helped raise 879 Oregon spotted frogs. Next week, 167 frogs will be released.

“Through this program we proved that this work could be done in prison and that inmates could do the work well,” Bush said.

Jack Boysen, 29, an inmate, has been raising frogs since March. He says the experience has enriched his day-to-day life.

“It’s nice being able to do something that matters instead of doing boring things like doing dishes, serving the same food in the kitchen day after day or going out and cutting trees.”

Raising the frogs is a “big responsibility,” according to Anglemyer, who has worked in the program since February. As a frog technician, he’s had to divide groups of tadpoles amongst the tanks, change the water and clean lily pads. He went from feeding tadpoles kale leaves, vitamin supplements and algae wafers, to feeding them crickets and mealworms as they’ve become adult frogs. He’s used turkey basters to remove old food from the tanks and also measured temperatures and pH-levels of water. And in the past few weeks, he’s helped weigh and measure the frogs and recorded data and observations in a journal.

William Anglemyer, an inmate at Cedar Creek Corrections Center observing the frog pool.

The work inmates perform can earn them animal husbandry certificates, according to Sibley, which can then be used to obtain up to 15 credits that can be used toward a degree at The Evergreen State College.

Anglemyer has an earned release date of 2018. He’s already earned his certificate and plans to go back to school upon release. He completed his GED while incarcerated and obtained his Associate of Arts degree through a Walla Walla Community College program at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center. He wants to get a Bachelor’s degree, but isn’t sure of what he wants to study yet.

“I’m looking forward to getting out and going back to school,” Anglemyer said. “I dropped out in ninth grade and then I messed up. I just wasn’t ready for school then.”

Anglemyer says admits that raising the frogs has been one of the most “Zen jobs” he’s ever had in prison and he’ll miss the frogs once they’re gone. He’s also looking forward to helping take care of the next batch of animals in the SPP project: turtles.

Inmates in the SPP program have the chance to care for western pond turtles. Some turtles are brought to Cedar Creek Corrections Center infected with a shell disease. Inmates help rehabilitate the turtles, which are then re-released into the wild. SPP officials say a new batch of turtles will be arriving at the prison by the end of the month.

“It’ll definitely be different once the frogs are gone,” Anglemyer says.