OTHELLO, Wash. — Nearly 300 endangered northern leopard frogs hopped back into the wild at the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge in August.
The northern leopard frog has been listed as endangered in Washington since 1999 with only one known wild population remaining in the state, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)
WDFW collected northern leopard frog eggs in the spring. Since then, the frogs have grown from egg masses to tadpoles to froglets at Northwest Trek and Oregon Zoo.
“We are at a critical point for this species,” said Lindsay Nason, WDFW biologist. “We’re working to bypass those threats through critical growth stages and establish a new population of northern leopard frogs in the region.”
WDFW said keepers have been preparing the frogs for life in the wild by giving them food to encourage their natural food-scavenging behaviors. Once the frogs are big enough, they’re taken to the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge ponds.
“It is exciting to watch them leap back into the wild and to be a part of this critical effort to save an endangered species here in Washington,” said Northwest Trek Zoological Curator Marc Heinzman
Once abundant throughout North America, northern leopard frogs rapidly disappeared from their native ranges in Washington, Oregon, and western Canada. Likely causes of the frogs’ decline in the Pacific Northwest include habitat loss and degradation, disease, non-native species, and climate change, according to WDFW.
Last month's release was made possible by WDFW, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Oregon Zoo, and Washington State University.