By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking to halt the spread of a fungus deadly to amphibians.

So far, the fungus -- commonly known as chytrid -- isn't a problem in Kansas, according to Travis Taggart, associate curator of herpetology at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History.

Under the proposal announced recently, FWS would require health certificates for any live amphibians or their eggs before they could be imported or sent across state lines.

The chytrid fungus -- Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, also known as Bd -- is a problem in the eastern U.S.

It's also a problem in mountainous areas and in the tropics, Taggart said.

"But not Kansas," he said.

Only one site outside Topeka has been checked for chytrid fungus in Kansas, Taggart said, and it was negative.

"Actually, there has been very little checking in the Great Plains," he noted.

Chytrid has been identified as a primary factor in the listing of several amphibian species as either threatened or endangered. The rule being proposed would require anyone wanting to import amphibians or send them across state lines to provide a health certificate declaring they are free of the fungus.

Comments from the public will be taken through Dec. 16 at regulations.gov.

While the fungus isn't a problem in Kansas, there is always the potential that it could be imported.

If approved, the proposed regulation would declare as "injurious" amphibians that do not have health certificates. It would not affect private ownership of amphibians so long as they don't cross state lines.

As for the wild amphibian population in Kansas, it's a mixed bag, Taggart said, with about 20 percent of the population in relatively good shape.

Perhaps 20 percent of them, he said, have expanded their range over the last 30 to 50 years, and some are no longer considered rare.

But that's only a small part.

"The majority are holding steady," he said.

There are a few, however, that are struggling.

The Blanchard's cricket frog, for example, is disappearing from the western reaches of the state, and are already gone from eastern Colorado and western Nebraska.

Despite efforts to find the frogs in far western Kansas, researchers have been unable to do so.

There's no clear reason for the frog's disappearance, Taggart said.