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 (Lithobates pipiens) populations across much of western Canada declined sharply in the 1970s. The B.C. 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 B.C. population of Northern Leopard Frog is situated within a protected area, the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area. In 2021, over 30 egg masses were discovered at the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area with expansion of breeding areas observed.
The Vancouver Aquarium, Calgary Zoo and Edmonton Valley Zoo are providing support by maintaining a captive assurance populations as insurance against catastrophic extinction of the species in the wild. Captive populations are over 150 animals strong now, and will provide tadpoles for release back into the wild at new sites.
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 have moved into the Creston Valley and bullfrogs possibly detected a few kilometers from the Columbia Marshes’ reintroduced population. The upcoming challenge will be to deal with these new threats while balancing with other conservation efforts.