Chiricahua leopard frogs are one of the 26 amphibians native to the Sky Islands, and one that we spend a great deal of time and effort conserving. This species was listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2002 because of population declines due to introduced predators, disease, and habitat loss and degradation. SIA has been working to strengthen native leopard frog populations (including the related lowland leopard frog) across the Sky Islands in a variety of ways:
Pajaritos Mountains Complex Bullfrog Eradication
Bullfrogs, native to the United States east of the Mississippi River but not in our region, are voracious predators of native leopard frogs and other wildlife. We have been working with the Coronado National Forest, Arizona Game and Fish Department, private landowners, and University of Arizona leopard frog expert David Hall to survey areas with permanent water in the Pajarito Mountains west of Nogales. We have been monitoring the presence of native leopard frogs and bullfrogs in conjunction with bullfrog removal activities.
Installation of Wildlife Escape Ramps
Leopard frogs are truly aquatic and require permanent water to live and reproduce. In many areas, water infrastructure for cattle provides permanent water that frogs and other wildlife can use, but it is not always safely accessible due to steep-sided tanks. We work with the Coronado National Forest and the Arizona Game and Fish Department to install ramps on the insides and outsides of tanks for safe access. We select locations for this work very carefully to provide connections between native frog metapopulations in areas absent of bullfrogs and to enhance recovery of the Chiricahua leopard frog.
Permanent water is a resource that has become increasingly scarce in the Sky Islands, and this drying trend is expected to continue. Maintaining permanent waters free on non-native predators on the landscape is critical to the continued existence of native leopard frogs. In addition, native bats need open waters for drinking water – and water sources at middle-elevations in the Chiricahua Mountains have been disappearing. We worked with Center for Wetlands and Stream Restoration, Coronado National Forest, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department to create three small ponds in an opening adjacent to Ash Spring, a mid-elevation spring in the Chiricahua Mountains. The Arizona Game and Fish Department will release captive-bred Chiricahua leopard frogs into the ponds, and SIA Adopt-a-Spring volunteers are diligently monitoring the site seasonally.
These activities all support the Chiricahua Leopard Frog Recovery Plan, which is designed with specific goals to remove stressors and strengthen populations across the range to the point where they are sustainable.