I was delighted to read some good news about the mountain yellow-legged frog, a creature I first observed in the High Sierra and wrote about for New West magazine way back in 1980. See: Frog Days in the High Sierra.
Biologists say that after years and years of population decline in Southern California, the number of mountain yellow-legged frogs is jumping. The Los Angeles Times reported that the frogs are breeding in record numbers in the creeks and river of the San Gabriel, San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains. “A hoppy outcome for frog,” punned The Times.
Turns out the frog is susceptible to a skin fungus that afflicts—and kills—other amphibians around the world. One theory is that after repeated bouts of the fungus that first hit in the 1960s, the ten percent of the mountain yellow-legged frog population that survived developed an immunity. Scientists will seek to determine if the frogs have developed a defense mechanism and if so, what it is.
Good thing the frogs are managing to adapt because efforts to reintroduce captive-bred frogs back into native waterways have had little success. We hikers hope to see more mountain yellow-legged frogs hopping along in the years to come as we hit the trail along Fuller Mill Creek in the San Jacinto Mountains, the Kaweah River in Sequoia National Park, and wherever they can adapt to the ever-changing natural world.