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Threatened California Red-Legged Frog Found Breeding In The Santa Monica Mountains For First Time In 50 Years

THOUSAND OAKS (CBSLA) — A threatened species of frog have been found to be independently breeding at two sites severely burned by the 2018 Woolsey Fire, National Park Services biologists said Tuesday.

red legged frog breeding
(credit: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area)

The California red-legged frog, which are listed as federally threatened under the Endangered Species Act and are considered a species of special concern by the state of California, have not bred in the wild since the 1970s, according to National Park Services. But a recent stream survey has uncovered egg masses at two sites – one in Los Angeles County and another in Ventura County.

"It was a welcome surprise," Katy Delaney, an ecologist leading the project in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said in a statement.

Three egg masses were found at one site in Los Angeles County. In Ventura County, a week after biologists found one female and one male frog, a single egg mass was discovered. Four sites set up in 2014 and 2016 were set up for reintroducing the species into the area with eggs translocated from a population discovered in the nearby Simi Hills.

Each of the locations were severely burned by the devastating Woolsey Fire, then hit by mudslides that wiped out much of the frog's habitat of deep breeding pools of year-round water and foliage. But the tadpoles have been found to have survived into adulthood at each site. The fully-grown frogs at the first two sites have begun breeding independently.

The frog's habitat is currently in poor shape and very low numbers of frogs have been surveyed, National Park Service officials said. Frogs were breeding at one of the early sites, but in the wake of the Woolsey Fire, this is the first sign that wild breeding has resumed.

"Here we are two years later, and the streams have recovered enough to create pools that the frogs must have liked," Delaney said.

Biologists are doing regular surveys for tadpoles and will be on the lookout later this summer for froglets, officials said.

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