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California Red-legged Frog Rana draytonii (Rana aurora draytonii)


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California Red-legged Frog
© Marc P. Hayes/U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Family: Ranidae, True Frogs view all from this family

Description 1 1/2-5" (3.8-12.8 cm). Large; reddish-brown to gray, with many poorly defined dark specks and blotches; blotches on back have light centers. Dorsolateral folds present. Dark mask bordered by light stripe on jaw. Eardrum smooth. Underside washed with red on lower abdomen and hind legs. Toes not fully webbed. Male has enlarged forearms and swollen thumbs.

Endangered Status The California Red-legged Frog is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as threatened in California. A wide variety of factors contributed to the precipitous decline in California Red-legged Frog populations. The species, which once ranged over much of California from Point Reyes to the Sierra foothills and south to Baja California, can no longer be found in 70 percent of its former range and now survives in fewer than 250 streams in central coastal California. Placer mining in the 1800s, which resulted in clogged and muddy streams, dealt the first blow. Later, the frog was heavily harvested for food, and it is estimated that some 80,000 frogs were killed per year. The non-native Bullfrog was introduced when the Red-legged population declined, and the new frog furthered the native frog’s decline by preying on it. Throughout the 20th century, agricultural, industrial, and residential development and the accompanying irrigation practices, reservoir building, damming, and water channeling irreparably altered the frog’s habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recovery plan for the California Red-legged Frog involves surveying, monitoring, and studying frog populations; protecting existing populations by reducing threats to them; restoring and creating habitat and placing it under protection and management; and re-establishing populations of the species within the historic range.

Voice Series of weak throaty notes, rather harsh, lasting 2-3 seconds.

Breeding December to March. Egg masses laid in permanent bodies of water.

Habitat Usually found near sheltered ponds or other permanent water with extensive vegetation. Also seen during rains traveling over land between ponds or other waters.

Range Historically, throughout Central Valley and Sierra Nevada foothills south to to n. Baja California. Now found from Sonoma and Butte Counties south to Riverside, but mainly in Monterey, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara Counties.

Discussion This species was formerly considered a subspecies of the Red-legged Frog Rana aurora.