Endangered northern leopard frogs hatched, raised and released back into the wild

OTHELLO, Wash. — Hundreds of endangered frogs were released back into the wild at the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.

Northern leopard frogs have been listed as endangered since 1999, with their populations disappearing from Washington, Oregon and western Canada. Their decline has been attributed to habitat loss, habitat degradation, disease, non-native species and climate change.

Northwest Trek Wildlife Park says there is only one known population remaining in the wild in Washington.

That is why the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) collected northern leopard frog eggs in the spring, brought them to Oregon Zoo and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park to grow, then released them back into the wild last week.

“The Washington state population of northern leopard frogs has a unique genetic variation relative to the rest of the species range, and they are part of the natural diversity of amphibians of the region,” said Washington State University biology associate professor Erica Crespi. “We are working to keep them here!”

Raising the eggs at the zoo allowed the critters to avoid the usual threats in the most critical stage of their growth, from tadpoles to froglets.

“We’re at a critical point for this species,” said Shelly Pettit from the Oregon Zoo. “We’re doing everything we can to help northern leopard frogs thrive again in the Pacific Northwest — and a big, healthy froglet has a much better chance of surviving in the wild than an egg or a tadpole.”

This ongoing recovery project is made in partnership with WDFW, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, WSU, Oregon Zoo and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park.