The critically endangered Oregon spotted frog is one step closer to recovery in the Fraser Valley.
Egg masses were discovered near Agassiz for the second year in a row.
“After more than a decade of trying to build a new population of this endangered frog, we are finally starting to see breeding,” said Aleesha Switzer, biologist with the Fraser Valley Conservancy.
To the utter delight of the recovery team, a total of six egg masses were found in Maria Slough near Agassiz; the number of eggs indicate how a population is doing.
“So much time, effort and money had been invested into this poor endangered species,” Switzer said.
When she actually saw the egg masses again this spring, she broke down and cried.
“As someone who’s been out there looking for them every year, it hit me personally.”
The discovery brings the Precious Frog Team one step closer to saving the elusive frog — one of Canada’s most endangered amphibians. The latin name of the species, Rana pretiosa, means Precious Frog.
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This population of Oregon spotted frog has been hanging on in small pockets, in Agassiz and Harrison Mills, as well as in agricultural areas of Chilliwack and Abbotsford. But it had declined to fewer than 500 breeding females in the wild, as wetlands dried up and development spread across the valley floor.
A section of the Maria Slough in Agassiz underwent restoration in 2009 to re-create in micro scale the specific type of shallow, marshy habitat these frogs needed to survive and thrive, the biologist explained.
“What makes this site so special is this habitat restoration was specifically designed to meet the needs of this population,” Switzer said.
Over the past decade, 10,000 frogs went into the slough but before 2020, no egg masses. Every spring they’d tromp along the edges looking for masses, to no avail.
Switzer said they were finally rewarded when they documented their first set of egg masses last year.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Switzer remembered. She cried then, too.
This year the team was positively tingling in anticipation as spring approached and they set out to look for the elusive frogs.
Was last year’s discovery a one-off?
No it wasn’t. Team members who scoured the slough found twice as many floating egg masses as last year.
For Switzer, all the excitement and emotions aside, it brings into sharp relief the need for Fraser Valley residents and property owners protect the precious, existing habitat.
Oregon spotted frog survival is contingent upon the residents of the Fraser Valley coexisting with them and supporting their habitat needs.
“While this discovery is exciting for the experts working to save this frog, they’re still at a fragile stage,” said Joanne Neilson, executive director at the Fraser Valley Conservancy.
“All of this work could be easily wiped out by a toxin introduced into the watercourse, or the impacts of climate change.”
The tireless work to save the frogs with captive breeding and rearing, and habitat work, is also thanks to the work of many dedicated biologists and organizations including The Vancouver Aquarium, Greater Vancouver Zoo, Toronto Zoo, and support from Wildlife Preservation Canada.
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