Oregon Spotted Frog

Oregon spotted frogs spend most of their lives in the water. They are excellent swimmers with short legs and feet webbing that goes all the way to the tips of their toes. They are a medium-sized frog, growing 5-10cm in length, and are named after the dark spots with light centers that cover their back, legs and head. The Oregon spotted frog changes colour with age, going from a brown or olive green (juveniles) to black and reddish brown with a bit of red on their stomach (adults). They have upward-turned eyes that help them see the surface when their heads are almost entirely underwater. How cool is that?!

oregon spotted frogs

Oregon spotted frogs can be hard to find because they are the most endangered amphibian in Canada. Even if you are lucky enough to spot one you might not know it because they are notorious for fooling people with a serious case of mistaken identity.

Did you know…the name “spotted frog” goes all the way back to 1841. The Oregon spotted frog looks so much like the Columbia spotted frog that it took until 1997 for scientists to deem them two separate species based on genetic differences!

Here’s how to tell the difference between an Oregon and Columbia spotted frog:

  • Oregon spotted frogs spend more time in the water than the Columbia spotted frog
  • Oregon spotted frogs have a small population and are found along the West coast, while the Columbia spotted frog is more common and lives in the interior of British Columbia.

oregon spotted frog habitat

Habitat

Oregon spotted frogs love water! They gravitate towards large, forested wetlands with floating plants. In the spring and summer, they are found in shallow warm water, but in the winter they stick to springs that don’t freeze over or low-flow channels and ditches. Oregon spotted frogs only leave the water for brief periods at a time to search for food, traveling around using waterways that connect ponds. These waterways form sort of a ‘froggie highway’.

The Oregon spotted frog used to live all along North America’s West coast, stretching from Southwestern British Columbia all the way down to Northern California. Today, however, Oregon spotted frogs are locally extinct in California (extirpated), endangered in British Columbia and Washington, and at risk in Oregon. The last surviving group of Oregon spotted frogs in Canada live in four isolated areas in Southwestern British Columbia.

Threats

oregon spotted frog eggs

Oregon spotted frog eggs. Photo credit: John Healey

Worldwide, an estimated 41% of the known 260 amphibian species are at risk. Populations of Oregon spotted frogs have dropped by 90% over the past century. As of 2010, fewer then 500 adult Oregon spotted frogs were found in Canada, only 300 of which were breeding females. Other estimates place their current wild population size at no more than 300 total. This species is in serious trouble. Four main factors are causing the Oregon spotted frog to be the most endangered amphibian in Canada. Most of these factors are due to human activities; such factors are known to scientists as ‘anthropogenic’

Habitat Loss

As land is developed, wetlands are drained or filled in to build farms, houses, and roads, which leaves animals like the Oregon spotted frog without a home. For example, in Canada, 70% of natural wetlands have been damaged or destroyed. Land development also cuts off ponds from each other, resulting in more isolated populations. Since frogs are generally not highly mobile, population isolation can lead to genetic problems like inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity.

Invasive Species

Invasive species are species that are not native to an area and that outcompete native animals or plants for resources necessary for survival, such as food, moisture, or habitat space. Oregon spotted frogs must compete for food and land with some really tough contenders, like invasive animal species such as American bullfrogs, Green frogs and fish. Invasive plant life doesn’t give them a break either, for example, reed canary grass forms dense mats on the shoreline that Oregon spotted frog struggle to break through to get underwater.

Water pollution

oregon spotted frog tadpole

Water pollution is severally threatening tadpoles' ability to survive. Photo credit: John Healey

Frogs, like other amphibians, are very sensitive to pollutants because of their permeable skin. This means that their skin absorbs contaminants in the air and water really easily, making them susceptible to illness or death from pollution, and excellent bioindicators of wetland health. The Oregon spotted frog is exposed to high amounts of agricultural chemicals, such as nitrates and nitrites, as well as pesticides. Even low levels of these chemicals that are considered safe for us to drink can have serious effects on tadpoles.

Diseases

The Oregon spotted frog is susceptible to fungal diseases like Chytridiomycosis, which affects around 30% of the planet’s amphibian species. The name for this disease is based on the Greek word chytridion, meaning “little pot” because this fungus produces groups of spores that resemble small spheres in a pot.. Symptoms include reddening of the skin on the ventral (under) side, convulsions, cuts, and skin loss. This disease is responsible for dramatic amphibian declines, and there is no known cure. About 100 amphibian species have gone extinct in the past 40 years due to this disease. While scientists suspect this fungus originated in South Africa, the pet trade has contributed to its spread. In terms of biodiversity loss, Chytridiomycosis may be the worst known environmental disease to affect non-human animals. The extent to which climate warming may contribute to the spread of Chytridiomycosis is under debate.

Status in Canada: Endangered

Take action

Water Pollution

Pollution in our water affects animals like the Oregon spotted frog. By not using things like pesticides, we can help keep their homes healthy.

oregon spotted frog

Your donations will help release new tadpoles into the wild. Photo credit: Meighan Makarchuk

Bring Back the Wild

Earth Rangers, in partnership with the Vancouver Aquarium, is working to protect the Oregon spotted frog and we need your help! By starting a Bring Back the Wild™ campaign to protect the Oregon spotted frog you will be fundraising in support of environmental education and critical conservation work in British Columbia. Here’s how your campaign will help protect the Oregon spotted frog:

  • Building a new breeding facility on the roof of the Vancouver Aquarium which will triple the number of tadpoles living there for release
  • Restoring wetland habitat in eastern Fraser Valley in Aldergrove Lake Regional Park where young Oregon spotted frogs bred at the Vancouver Aquarium will be released
  • Helping researchers at the Vancouver Aquarium breed tadpoles for release back into the wild in other suitable habitat areas

Visit Bring Back the Wild™ to start your campaign to protect the Oregon spotted frog.

To learn more about the Oregon spotted frog check out these links:

Vancouver Aquarium
British Columbia Frog Watch Program
COSEWIC: Assessment and status report on the Oregon Spotted Frog
British Columbia Ministry: Report on the Oregon spotted frog

A Conservation Project With

Vancouver Aquarium

Earth Rangers is a non-profit organization that works to inspire and educate children about the environment. At EarthRangers.com kids can play games, discover amazing facts, meet animal ambassadors and fundraise to protect biodiversity.

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16 Comments

  1. YoungEarthRanger says:

    I didn’t know that frogs could be on the danger list.

    [Reply]

  2. auvod4851 says:

    cool

    [Reply]

  3. CrystalColors says:

    Poor things

    [Reply]

  4. RangerBee says:

    We visited a place that was raising some, one time.

    [Reply]

  5. ninijon5 says:

    I looooooovvvvvveeeee frogs!!!!!!!

    [Reply]

    AuroraL Reply:

    Me too!

    [Reply]


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