Northern Leopard Frog

The Northern Leopard Frog Recovery Team is made up of government and non-government biologists, stakeholders and community members that are working together to improve populations and restore habitat of one of the most at-risk species in British Columbia. Northern Leopard Frog populations across much of western Canada declined sharply in the 1970s. The BC population is federally listed as Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), is on the provincial Red List (endangered or threatened) and is protected under the Wildlife Act.

The only remaining remnant BC population of Northern Leopard Frog is situated within a protected area, the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area. The recovery team has been working to protect and increase the population of frogs at this site as well as assessing other sites for reintroduction and initiating habitat restoration. Tadpoles have been reintroduced to two other sites within their historic range.Northern Leopard Frog, photo by Lea Randall

The Vancouver Aquarium is providing support by maintaining a captive assurance population as insurance against catastrophic extinction of the species in the wild. Their captive population is over 150 animals strong now, and there were 20 females ready to breed in 2015. This multi-year, multi-genetic line population is now a true and stable assurance population.

In 2015, over 25 egg masses were laid at the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area (compared to an average of 8 eggs masses from 2000-2009), and there were tentative signs of a satellite population in the nearby Leach Lake unit.

At the Columbia Marshes reintroduction site, over 3,500 hatchling tadpoles were released from both the captive breeding population and wild collected eggs, the largest release of animals to date at this location.

At the Upper Kootenay Floodplain reintroduction site (aka Bummers Flats) 19 individual males were recorded calling, compared to the less than 5 in previous years, and the sporadic one or two before tadpole translocations were re-started in 2010.

The Northern Leopard Frog Recovery Team’s next initiative is to increase the number of eggs and tadpoles available for starting new reintroduced populations, both through improving captive breeding techniques and by increasing egg production in the few wild populations by mitigating threats such as predation, disease and road mortality.

Northern Leopard Frogs are vulnerable to introductions of invasive fish and bullfrogs in their breeding ponds. Unfortunately, breeding populations of bullfrogs were recently discovered in Idaho, just south of the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area and nearby in Nelway, and possibly another population a few kilometers from the Columbia Marshes reintroduced population. The upcoming challenge will be to deal with these new threats without easing up on all the other conservation efforts.