THE NORTHERN LEOPARD FROG: CALIFORNIA'S FORGOTTEN ANURAN?
|Eric W Stitt; ICF International; email@example.com; Jason R. Peters, Nolan Bielinski, Robert W. Hansen
California harbors up to 28 species of native anurans in four families. Of these, the majority (17 species-61%) have been noted as declining in distribution and abundance and are protected as threatened, endangered, or under other regulatory status designations. Among this multitude of threatened amphibians, the Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens), perhaps North America’s most widespread amphibian, appears almost forgotten from discussion in California. The Northern Leopard Frog’s status in California has been confounded by the introduction and establishment of non-native populations, combined with a confusing taxonomic history and a propensity to occur on private land. A presumed native population has not been observed in California since the early 1990’s: however, in 2019 a dead leopard frog was observed on a snowbank in Mono County, within the presumed historical native range of the species. Subsequent surveys in 2020-2022 have documented an extant but sparse population in the Walker River Watershed west of the Nevada border. Here we report on the collection history of Rana pipiens in California via museum records. We provide survey results from the Walker River site and outline potential steps for habitat enhancement. Lastly, we present ideas for the conservation of this species in the Golden State.