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Northwest frog gets a hand from Endangered Species Act

Posted by: Fred Koontz, Vice President of Field Conservation, and Jennifer Pramuk, Animal Curator

An Oregon spotted frog is released into protected wetlands after being raised at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Yesterday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told this little frog we've got its back.

Woodland Park Zoo applauds the USFWS on its official decision to extend federal protection to the Oregon spotted frog as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This big move will go a long way in making recovery possible throughout the Oregon spotted frog’s northwest range.

An adult Oregon spotted frog. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Once common and widespread in Puget Sound area wetlands, the Oregon spotted frog now inhabits 10% or less of its former range in the Pacific Northwest. That loss means more than just devastation to our native frog population. As Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Acting Supervisor, Tom McDowell, noted in the announcement, the frog’s decline “signals degradation in the health of natural areas that provide for people as well as fish and wildlife.”

Oregon spotted frogs need healthy wetland habitat. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Celebrating a victory for Oregon spotted frogs means celebrating a victory for wetlands. Washington’s wetlands are fast disappearing, lost to draining, damming and filling for development. Why does it matter? Wetlands are critical to the overall health of our watersheds—they provide important functions for people like flood control, ground water recharge, and recreation. It’s essential to protect the quality of the wetlands that remain as they face pressure from pollution, invasive wildlife, and disease.

With federal species protection can come federal habitat protection. The final rule designating critical habitat for the Oregon spotted frog is expected to be announced this fall, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Now with federal action underway, the impact of local action through our Living Northwest conservation program becomes amplified. For the past six years, Woodland Park Zoo has been working with partners at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Northwest Trek, Cedar Creek Correctional Facility, Evergreen State College and Joint Base Lewis-McChord to restore Oregon spotted frog populations locally. Together we collect egg masses, hatch and raise the frogs in safety at the zoo, and then release them to protected wetlands in the wild.

An Oregon spotted frog tadpole raised at Woodland Park Zoo before being released into the wild. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

We are set to release several hundred more head started frogs this fall. Knowing that they and their future offspring are protected at the federal level means a better future for our northwest wildlife and wetlands, and thus a better future for our northwest communities.


Anonymous said…
I appreciate the good work WPZ and its partners do in the greater environment. It's not just about the zoo (and the other organizations), but about conservation and protection of the environment throughout the state.
Anonymous said…
This is a fantastic step for the Spotted frog, the WPZ does a wonderful job of head starting several different species of animals. Keep it up!