Native Species Spotlight – Northern red-legged frog

Photo credit: J. Ari Sindel

Interested in amphibians native to Portland? Meet the northern red-legged frog (Rana aurora aurora). Besides hopping around our neck of the woods, you can see them in other  coastal regions between Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, and Elk Creek, in Northern California. The first word in  this amphibian’s Latin name, Rana, signifies that they are in a genus of the true frog family (Ranidae) with characteristically slim waists, extensively webbed feet, and long powerful legs that make them maestros of jumping and swimming.

The frog calls you hear in our District  are actually from our local Pacific tree frog (Pseudacris regilla); the male red-legged frogs call while they are underwater. In the springtime,  tadpoles hatch from their eggs and spend the next 3 months swimming around in stagnant ponds. By July, all of the tadpoles have metamorphosed and begin to venture away from their aquatic nursery.

The Northern red-legged frog is federally listed as a species of concern and is recognized as a sensitive species in Oregon. Although not threatened or endangered, the recognized status of this species means  there are several groups working to conserve frog habitat and closely monitor their numbers. WMSWCD is actively working to maintain habitat for red-legged frogs by supporting initiatives to add native plant communities on properties in the district and by eradicating invasive species. This helps ensure there are plenty of clean healthy ponds  and a diverse food web so the frogs can feast on a variety of wildlife including insects, worms, snails, small rodents, and even tree frogs.

Besides our work in habitat conservation and restoration, the citizens of our district have taken special steps to ensure the survival of a particular population of native frogs near Linnton. The Harborton Frog Shuttle is a group of around 40 dedicated volunteers who carry frogs safely across Highway 30 and train tracks so they can safely travel from forest park to their breeding grounds on a Portland General Electric wetland property. This population has around 650 frogs, and, since shuttling began in 2015, researchers have noticed successful breeding and fewer frogs perishing on the highway.

by J. Ari Sindel, West Multnomah SWCD, Field & GIS Intern

For more information on amphibians in forest habitats, see Amphibians in Managed Woodlands, produced by the Woodland Fish & Wildlife Group.

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