Biologists in Oregon Work to Help the Spotted Frog

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The Oregon spotted frog was once plentiful from British Columbia all the way south to California. However, due to habitat loss, invasive plant species and the introduction of non-native predators, the numbers spotted frogs have sharply declined. Biologists and conservationists struggle to secure the safety of the frogs in their remaining habitat areas in Oregon and Washington.

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Oregon spotted frogs need very specific environments to thrive. This includes consistent year-round water levels, the presence of dense grass of just the right height, and the absence of non-native predators such as bullfrogs and warm-water game fish. These needs often conflict with waterfront development, farmland irrigation and other human endeavors. The overwhelming loser in these conflicts is the spotted frog, which clings to a mere 10-percent of its previous habitat range.

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Of paramount concern to biologists is fluctuating water levels caused by irrigation and dam management in areas the frogs inhabit. In an effort to save remaining habitat, the Center for Biological Diversity and WaterWatch of Oregon have sued the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation along with local irrigation districts. Although state agencies, environmental groups and other interested parties reached a compromise concerning water levels in 2008, little practical implementation of the plan took place. The lawsuit was designed to expedite matters to ensure the amphibian’s survival. In 2014, Oregon spotted frogs were declared threatened under the Endangered Species Act, which added impetus to the conservation effort.

As of May 2016, over 20 miles of river and 65,000 acres of land have been declared critical habitats for spotted frogs. These protected lands include areas of Deschutes, Wasco, Lane, Klamath and Jackson Counties in Oregon. They also include Skagit, Klickitat, Thurston, Skamania and Whatcom Counties in Washington. Management of the protective areas involves limiting introduction of non-native predators and controlling or eliminating non-native plant species such as reed canary grass.

Environmentalists are hopeful that continued land management ensures the future vitality of the Oregon spotted frog. Conservationists are also concerned about another Oregon frog species, the foothill yellow-legged frog. Read this article about a humorous response to a survey request on behalf of the yellow-legged frog.

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