On Saturday, June 2nd, Ann Bowers, District Wildlife Biologist and Lareina VanSant, Biologist Technician led a group of us into a protected, off limits area of Dark Canyon to see the endangered Mountain Yellow-legged Frog, Rana Mucosa. This unique experience gave us a chance to see frogs that once were abundant by the thousands in our mountain pools and creeks.
When we first arrived at the pools, it was difficult to find any of these cute little frogs. In 2002, these frogs were placed on the Endangered Species list. At this time, less than 200 of these frogs were reported in the San Gabriel, San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountain streams. The last 10 years have been filled with extreme challenges in the recovery efforts to prevent the extirpation of the frogs from the San Jacinto mountains.
With the assistance of Lareina's sharp eyes, we found 2 adult frogs basking in the sun on an open boulder in the water. Decline of the frogs over the years has been attributed to many factors including drought, nonnative predators (bullfrogs, trout) and a fungal disease, called chytridriomycosis. The Mountain Fire of 2013 burned a portion of their habitat in the wilderness. This was followed by a torrential rainfall that caused ash and sediment to fill in some crucial creeks.
Since 2007, scientists at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research have been involved in a captive breeding program. Releases of tadpoles, juveniles or adults into our wilderness has been an ongoing project since 2011. There is discussion of a release of frogs in the high country this summer.
When we speak of the "authority of the resource", we are talking about life that inhabits our wilderness. We are the "voice" for the quiet inhabitants whether they are the beautiful Lemon Lilies, Red-breasted Sapsuckers, Mountain Lions or Mountain Yellow-legged Frogs.
In order to protect the frogs and other wildlife, we need to educate hikers about keeping our few creeks pristine. This includes avoiding trampling vegetation along the water's edge and refraining from adding pollutants including dish soap into the creeks.
When we offer this special opportunity again, I hope you will join us to see the special Mountain Yellow-legged Frogs for yourself. Research is ongoing. The fight to save them from extirpation continues!!!
BTW, if you hear a frog croaking, could it be a MYLF???? No, you are probably hearing one of the tree frogs in our area. The endangered frogs vocalize underwater so it is inaudible to us.
Hope to see you on our upcoming botany walks!
Robin Roberts, Interpretive Coordinator