Good news for endangered California frogs

We were happy to learn that a few days ago the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to designate two species of native yellow legged frogs inhabiting high-elevation lakes in the Sierra Nevada and Southern California mountain ranges as threatened and endangered species under the state’s Endangered Species Act. The commission acted after the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition outlining the decline.

photo courtesy National Park Service. Department of the Interior

According to the Center, the population of Sierra Yellow legged frogs has decreased by 75% in recent decades. Reading about these frogs, we were struck by how they are a symbol of the challenges that frogs face worldwide. But they aren’t facing one challenge—they seem to be facing almost all of them:

Introduction of nonnative species: Stocking of nonnative trout in high-elevation Sierra lakes has been the main cause of the species’ decline. The trout eat tadpoles and juvenile frogs and alter the food web of the aquatic ecosystems on which the native frogs depend. The Department is recommending no trout stocking in the state without a fish management plan, and no further stocking of trout in areas that would conflict with protecting yellow-legged frogs.

Pesticides: Recent research has linked pesticides that drift from agricultural areas in the Central Valley to declines of native amphibians in the Sierra Nevada. Pesticides and other pollutants can directly kill frogs and also act as environmental stressors that render amphibians more susceptible to diseases, including a chytrid fungus that has recently ravaged many yellow-legged frog populations.

Loss and degradation of habitat: Grazing, logging, water diversions, off-road vehicles and recreational activity are allowed in frog habitat.

Climate change: Climate change has brought warmer temperatures, decreases in runoff, shifts in winter precipitation in the Sierra from snow to rain, and habitat changes that are rendering frog populations more vulnerable to drought-related extinction events.

A recent settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, which will also speed protection decisions for 756 other species, requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2013 to make a decision about whether to add the Sierra frog to the federal endangered list.

See the Center for Biological Diversity for more information about these frogs and about the other endangered species they are working to protect.


Deformed Frogs Found in New Mexico Pond

According to the KOAT-TV blog (Albuquerque, NM), residents of Los Lunas, New Mexico, are concerned about  dead and deformed frogs found in a pond in a park just a few feet from their homes.

A  frog with two extra legs

As quoted in the report, a resident, who wants to remain anonymous, said the discovery has been a huge concern around the neighborhood for weeks. “We saw several today, probably five or six, maybe ten that were just dead around the pond.”

A local resident took pictures of the deformed frogs after her kids caught several from the pond. In the photos, some of the frogs have no back legs at all, while others have too many legs.

Michael Jaramillo, director of Parks and Recreation for Los Lunas, investigated these reports and found two dead and deformed frogs almost instantly. He suspects that weed killer or chemicals used to treat the algae may be hurting the amphibians. The city of Los Lunas has closed the park and has stretched a yellow caution tape around the entire pond, and experts will soon test the water.

Mason Ryan, an amphibian expert at the University of New Mexico, said in a related article that  frogs can be good indicators of what’s wrong in the environment. He doesn’t know what’s specifically happening at the New Mexico park, but the frogs could help tell the story.

“It could indicate that something is out of whack — a potential parasite population has increased too much, a potential predator or disease or chemical contaminant.”

State environmental officials plan to contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and to test the water for contaminants.

More information:

Dead, Deformed Frogs Found in Pond, KOAT, Albuquerque

State Official Investigate Deformed Frogs