Mountain yellow-legged frog
A mountain yellow-legged frog. Courtesy U.S. Fix & Wildlife Service

Recovery efforts for the federally endangered Southern California population of mountain yellow-legged frog continued to move forward Tuesday, with the release of 500 tadpoles to their historic range in Angeles National Forest.

It was the first release of tadpoles into the Angeles National Forest, and is one of several releases that will occur this summer throughout portions of the species’ range.

Through cooperative efforts with the Los Angeles Zoo, San Diego Zoo Global, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and others, the frogs are being bred in captivity and reintroduced to their native streams in the San Gabriel, San Jacinto and San Bernardino mountains.

“We like to encourage people to think globally by acting locally when it comes to conservation,” said Ian Recchio, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians at the Los Angeles Zoo. “This team effort is a great example of how acting locally can make a huge, positive impact on the environment. The Los Angeles Zoo has been proud to be involved in this recovery project for over 10 years, and the release of these Zoo-bred and raised tadpoles is definitely the high point.”

“By working with a broad array of partners, we are moving the needle forward in recovering mountain yellow-legged frog populations in Southern California,” said Mendel Stewart, Field Supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Carlsbad office.

In 2002, when the frogs were listed under the Endangered Species Act, it was estimated that fewer than 100 adult frogs remained in the wild. Threats to the species include habitat loss, pollution, non-native predators; and the deadly amphibian disease chytridiomycosis, caused by the chytrid fungus. Scientists determined that captive rearing offered the species the best chance of recovery. Other measures being taken to help the species include: removal of non-native fish and bullfrogs from streams; and conducting research to inform recovery actions.

“After seeing a sharp decrease in the local population only a few years ago, this remarkable partnership continues to allow us to help this endangered frog species recover,” said Angeles National Forest acting Forest Supervisor Rachel Smith. “With the cooperation of our many partners, we have now established a process to ensure the mountain yellow-legged frog is a part of this watershed and ecosystem for generations to come.”

Recovery efforts, now in their 12th year, have resulted in more than 3,800 tadpoles and sub-adult frogs released into their historic range. Post-release surveys have documented breeding at two of the release sites.

A draft recovery plan for this species is expected to be released for public review and comment in the near future.

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