Cascades Frog - Rana cascadae
If you’re strolling through a wet meadow in the Cascades Range and hear a low, guttural chirping noise coming from a marshy thicket, you may have been lucky enough to hear the call of the Cascades frog. Once abundant in the alpine lakes and zones of Northern California, the Cascades frog is now in dire need of helping hands. The introduction of non-native fish species, deadly pathogens, and detrimental repercussions of human activity have taken a toll on this frog’s habitat and survival, reducing its presence in California to the Klamath Mountains and Southern Cascades.
According to a statistic from the Center for Biological Diversity from March of this year, Cascades frogs have disappeared from 95 percent of their historical habitat in the Lassen area, slipping from a numerous population size to a diminutive one. The good news, however, is that this statistic was housed within a petition sent from the Center of Biological Diversity to the California Fish and Game Commission, urging the listing of the Cascades frog as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act.
Drum roll, please: As of October 11, 2017, the California Fish and Game Commission has granted the Cascades frog candidacy for the lawful protection requested by the Center for Biological Diversity in their March petition.
Though the Cascades frog’s population situation seems dire, it’s a creature that hurdles tough challenges throughout several stages of life and could very well persevere if granted full endangered species status. Though female Cascades frogs breed once a year between mid-May and mid-July and lay about 425 eggs, environmental and pathogenic factors make tadpoles’ survival rate a gamble. The shallow pools that females tend to lay their eggs in run the risk of freezing if temperatures dramatically drop, which is possible due to the altitude of the frog’s habitat, which ranges from 750 to 8,200 feet. The proximity of egg clusters to each other creates an easy environment for diseases to spread. According to a study conducted by the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research, the increasing concentration of chemical fertilizers in the environment may also pose a significant threat to juvenile Cascades frogs’ health, as laboratory studies indicated that they cannot detect and therefore cannot avoid toxic levels of fertilizers in their habitats.
After their three-year journey from egg to tadpole to adulthood, Cascade frogs develop a golden-brown base color with flecks of brownish-black speckled along their backs. A black stripe extends from the tip of the frog’s nose to the side of their head near the ear, as if they are wearing a little mask. Their choice of habitats include the marshy meadows, alpine streams, and lakes of high-elevation mountains.
There is still a ways to go until those who consider the voices of frogs to be just as integral to Northern California as the treetops and rivers can finally breathe a sigh of relief for this little but courageous amphibian. According to an announcement from the Center for Biological Diversity, the decision of whether the Cascades frog will be granted federal protection will not be reached until at least 2022. For now, however, a hip-hop-ribbet-hooray is owed to the Center for Biological Diversity and all others who have spoken up on behalf of this amphibian who may just be one of the toughest froggies out there.