Hundreds of critically endangered northern leopard frogs will be released into the wild at the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge in Grant County this month through a partnership between the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Oregon Zoo, Washington State University, and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park.
After months of growing at the Oregon Zoo and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, the frogs were collected by WDFW earlier this spring for release in August. WSU researchers will also install dozens of frogs with tiny wireless transmitters to help track their movements and monitor their survival.
Northern leopard frogs were once abundant throughout North America but are rapidly disappearing from their native ranges in Washington, Oregon and western Canada. These frog species have been classified as critically endangered in Washington since 1999. The causes of frog decline in the Pacific Northwest are likely habitat loss and degradation, disease, non-native species, and climate change.
“The Washington state population of northern leopard frogs has genetic diversity unique to the rest of the species group, and they are part of the natural diversity of amphibians in the region,” said Erica Crespi, associate professor of biology at Washington State University, in a press release.
Eggs are raised through the tadpole to frog stage at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park and Oregon Zoo, as partners work to bypass threats during critical growth stages and create a new population of northern leopard frogs in the area. Frogs contribute significantly to the environment and are often overlooked, but agencies and their partners are working to change that.
“Northern leopard frogs are an important indicator of water quality due to their permeable skin,” said Emily Grabowski, a biologist with the World Federation of Fisheries, in the statement. To waterfowl and deer.”