Endangered Northern Leopard Frogs Jump From Oregon Zoo Into The Wild

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) – More than 100 northern leopard frogs raised at the Oregon Zoo are returning to the wild this month, thanks to a collaborative effort to save one of the last populations in the northwest this endangered species.

The froglets, which hatched from eggs collected by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife earlier this year, spent six months growing big and strong in a protected area at the zoo before being released into the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge more early this month.

“We keep the eggs safe and healthy until they’re ready to hatch,” said Sara Morgan, who oversees the zoo’s frog-rearing efforts. “Frogs have a much better chance of surviving on their own in the wild than eggs or tadpoles.”

The recovery effort is made possible through a partnership with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington State University, and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park.

Once abundant throughout North America, northern leopard frogs are rapidly disappearing from their original ranges in Washington, Oregon and western Canada. In Washington, where zoo-bred froglets have been released, the species has been listed as endangered since 1999 and only one known population remains.

“Every little frog matters,” Morgan said.

Biologists attribute the frogs’ decline to a combination of threats, including habitat loss, disease, predation by bullfrogs, pollution and climate change. By giving them a head start, the zoo and its conservation partners hope to rebuild the northern leopard frog population in the area.

Helping frogs – and the wetland habitat they depend on – will also benefit other species, conservationists say.

“Northern Leopard Frogs are an important indicator of water quality,” said WDFW biologist Emily Grabowsky. “If we can improve and conserve wetland habitat that is good for frogs, we will also benefit other species ranging from other amphibians to waterfowl and deer.”

Funding for the reintroduction of the northern leopard frog is provided through a competitive State Wildlife Grant awarded to WDFW through the USFWS Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program .

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