California Red-legged Frog Populations Suffer Due To Woolsey Fire

June 25, 2019

The California Red-legged frog (Rana draytonii), which have declined throughout much of its range in Southern California, have suffered another setback due to the Woolsey fire that ravaged much of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in 2018.

California red-legged frog

National park Service

Back in 2014, biologists Mark Mendelsohn and Katy Delaney released more than 850 tadpoles into the Santa Monica Mountains. 

According to the National Park Service, hundreds of frogs that were part of an initiative to reintroduce the threatened amphibians into the mountains, died during the 2018 fire. Prior to the fire, the frogs, a threatened species and the official state frog of the Golden State, were successfully reproducing in two of the four streams in which they were reintroduced. That all changed due to the fire that destroyed much of the habitat in which the frog lives as well as heavy rainfall that caused debris flows, filling the streams with silt and mud, according to the National Park Service. 

Biologists Release California Red-Legged Frog Tadpoles Into Santa Monica Mountains

“With three of the four sites, there is no aquatic habitat left and not much vegetation,” Katy Delaney, a National Park Service ecologist told National Park Traveler. “I don’t even know if they are alive. They were doing great before the fire.” Delaney has spent the last five years spearheading the effort to reintroduce the frog to its natural range. 

California red legged frog

national park service

An adult California red-legged frog right after the Woolsey Fire.

There is a silver lining though as a population of the frogs was discovered in an area of the Santa Monica Mountains that escaped the debris flows that devastated other breeding ponds in the mountains. Egg masses, six in total were also discovered in the area and those masses were taken to the Santa Barbara Zoo, they became the breeding stock to get the effort jump started.

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