California Red-Legged Frogs Discovered Following Fire Destruction

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California Red-Legged Frogs

In a bright moment for National Park Service biologists this week, it was announced a total of 28 California red-legged frogs had been discovered in four translocation sites in the Santa Monica Mountains. This discovery comes months after it was announced the species was likely decimated due to the November 2018 Woolsey Fire and following heavy rain.

According to information provided by the National Park Service on Tuesday, Oct. 15, “During a number of night surveys that took place over the last few weeks, a handful of these amphibians were found in each of the four reintroduction sites, a discovery that amazed Katy Delaney, a National Park Service ecologist who has been leading the project since 2011. After all, a huge wildfire followed closely by catastrophic mudslides could have potentially meant the end for these small, nocturnal amphibians.”

The frog species rehabilitation began in 2014 when frogs were reintroduced into four steams in the Santa Monica Mountains, four decades since the amphibians had last called the area home in the 1970s. 

“I still don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s a big deal that these frogs survived the fire and the mudslides,” Delaney said in a press release from the park. “I think that the fact that they survived all of that is extraordinary.”

Hurdles still exist for the species, including where they will be able to breed in the spring.

“To breed, frogs require deep breeding pools of year-round water and foliage, like willow. Female frogs lay their eggs underwater, but often near the surface. The egg masses are usually attached to willow roots or submerged sticks,” according to information shared by the park service. “The important aquatic habitat and vegetation needed to successfully breed no longer exists in three of the four streams that were badly burned. To this day, almost one year later, these streams are still filled with silt, mud and debris.”

Since many frogs were too young to breed last year, this will be an important season to learn whether or not the reintroduction can continue to be successful.