The Rana aurora draytonii, the California red-legged frog, is our official state amphibian. However, due in part to the presence of pesticides, pollution, and the introduction of non-native plant species, the frog is now only dispersed among three small populations throughout Los Angeles County. The numbers are so drastically low, in fact, that the frog is officially an endangered species.
Last July, biologists took hundreds of eggs and released them into the streams of the Santa Monica Mountains, the first-ever attempt to reintroduce the species into the wild. One year later, they examined the area and found that a number of frogs survived this initial ordeal. Typically one to five percent of eggs make it to adulthood; in this case, at least 15 frogs were found to be alive after their first birthday.
Recently, biologists released another hundred tadpoles that they hope will mature into adulthood. But it may be a tough road for these tiny guys, because they have their fair share of predators -- raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes, and certain birds -- out to get them. They'll also have to ward off some of their own:
Those tadpoles could face an even tougher childhood than their pioneer cousins, because juvenile and adult red-legged frogs are known to prey on the tadpoles of their own species.
It's far too early to tell if this attempt will take, but it's a good first sign. At the very least, it's a good reminder that if you do happen to see a red-legged frog, leave it alone.