Environment & Science

Reintroduction effort for threatened frog gets big boost from state parks

Red-legged frog tadpoles swim into the wild for the first time. The team is releasing hundreds of
Red-legged frog tadpoles swim into the wild for the first time. The team is releasing hundreds of
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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Scientists on Thursday doubled the number of locations where they’ve reintroduced a threatened species of frog in Southern California.

Katy Delaney, a wildlife ecologist with the National Park Service, said the two new sites where red-legged frog egg masses were placed seem suitable habitats. Evidence of this is the presence of other sensitive native species, such as the California newt and the California tree frog.

“The stream sites are supporting healthy populations of the other native amphibians,” Delaney said. “That’s actually just like a plus that we have those native species doing well in those sites.”

The Safe Harbor Agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California State Parks in February paved the way for Delaney and her team to place the threatened frogs on state park land. The newly placed egg masses are in streams in Leo Carillo and Malibu Creek state parks.

The 50-year conservation agreement allows California State Parks to continue necessary maintenance activities in areas where the red-legged frogs have been introduced.

"Collaborative, voluntary conservation efforts like this one are key to recovering imperiled wildlife in Southern California,” Eric Morrissette, senior fish and wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Ventura, said in a written statement. “Through the Safe Harbor Program, private and non-federal landowners, like California State Parks, can proactively support species’ recovery by restoring or managing habitat for those species on their lands, with assurances that other land-uses, like visitor recreation opportunities or maintenance activities, are not restricted.”

Future sites included in the agreement are Topanga and Point Mugu state parks.

“The agreement’s going to triple the amount of sites that we’re allowed to do,” Delaney said.

Earlier reintroductions have been carried out in two separate locations within the Santa Monica Mountains, beginning in 2014. Delaney said those populations show promising signs of reestablishment for the red-legged frog.

“We see either adult or young frogs every time we go to any of the sites, so that’s a good sign,” Delaney said.

The frogs don’t reach adulthood until their second year. Delaney said expected rainstorms could trigger breeding among the previously reintroduced populations.

She said even the fact that some individuals have made it this far is an encouraging sign.

“Once they make it to adulthood, their survivorship is pretty good,” Delaney said.