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Naturalist Janet Hohmann helps search for Columbia spotted frog eggs at Wolfe Ranch conservation easement at the confluence of the Wallowa and Lostine rivers. JULIA LAKES photo
Columbia spotted frogs are a rare and declining species that breed and live in the wetlands at the confluence of the Lostine and Wallowa rivers.
Last week, Julia Lakes of the Wallowa Land Trust and volunteers went in search of their tiny eggs.
In February 2011 the Wallowa Land Trust acquired a conservation easement on 197 acres at the confluence on the Woody Wolfe Ranch. The easement allows the Wolfe family to continue to own and manage the property while the development rights were transferred to the land trust.
This year the trust implemented a management plan on the property. Part of that effort involved documenting threatened species and important habitat on the property.
Columbia spotted frogs, a sensitive species, have dwindling numbers due to loss of habitat and predation by non-native American bullfrogs.
Lakes, director of education and outreach, said, “We’re looking forward to seeing their numbers increase as we restore wetlands on this property.”
For breeding, Columbia spotted frogs require permanent, shallow, non-flowing water with emergent vegetation. They lay large egg clusters usually near the perimeter of shallow, perennial ponds, said Lakes.
Last week, five previously undocumented breeding locations for spotted frogs were found which, altogether, contained more than 53 egg clusters. These results show that although the species is struggling, there are small pockets of habitat where the frogs can continue to breed and thrive, said Lakes.
Additionally, Columbia spotted frog habitat needs are similar to the needs of other native amphibians so protecting spotted frog habitat means protecting habitat for other species as well.
The survey for the spotted frog eggs was conducted on both the existing easement on the Woody Wolfe Ranch and land earmarked for another easement with the Trust.
Lakes said eggs were even found in an area previously used as a two-track, dirt road.
“The best way to document Columbia spotted frogs is by identifying their eggs,” said Lakes. “They are difficult to see and unlike other species of frogs, they are very quiet.”
The easement was a desirable acquisition for the Trust to keep the land as a working farm. If it was developed for home sites, the land would become fragmented making species survival, like the spotted frogs, more difficult, said Lakes.