The red-legged frog (Rana draytonii) populations in Watsonville seem to be making a comeback thanks to restoration efforts that have taken place in the last 20 years, but they aren't breeding as successfully in Watsonville's wetlands, but rather are hopping over to Monterey County to breed. This is because the Watsonville Slough and Pajaro River Valley that were breeding grounds for the frog have been affected by development and the change in water over the last 30 years, according to a report in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
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California red-legged frog. Image courtesy Jamie Bettaso, SaveTheFrogs.com
Gary Kittelson, an environmental consultant who has been studying the wildlife habitats in the region for the last 23 years, believes that the frogs are moving to nearby Monterey County to breed due to changes in the hydrology of the slough and the presence of bullfrogs, largemouth bass, sunfish and other predatory animals that feed on the frogs. Kittelson told the Sentinel that the slough used to dry out in the summer but is now full with water year round, turning it to a lake system that is beneficial to the frog. The conditions are right and Kittleson is hearing frog calls indicating that the frogs are trying to breed in the Watsonville and Pajaro water systems but he and his team haven't yet been able to successfully net any tadpoles.
Kittleson says Monterey county's water system doesn't have the predatory bullfrog and non-native fish in its water systems, which, along with off season breeding ponds constructed by environmental advocacy group Watsonville Wetlands Watch has helped the frog to become better established.
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Kittelson will detail more information in the presentation "California Red-legged Frogs and Western Pond Turtles in the Lower Pajaro Valley" July 18 as part of the Watsonville Wetlands Watch speaker series. He will discuss both the red-legged frog as well as the Western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata
). The presentation will be held at the Fitz Educational Resource Center at the Pajaro Valley High School campus in Watsonville. Admission to the presentation is free.
The California red-legged frog was made famous by Mark Twain's short story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." Listed as threatened in 1996, Rana draytonii is the largest native frog in the Western United States. It grows from 1.5 to 5 inches in length and sports an olive or brown back and reddish legs and belly.