Frogs Get Special Protection in Sierras

By Matt Baume
|  Thursday, Dec 2, 2010  |  Updated 10:46 AM PDT
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Frogs Get Special Protection in Sierras

esablawg.com

It's not easy being green -- sometimes, it's fatal.

A threatened species of frog may get a new lease on life, thanks to a new sanctuary in the Sierras.

Several environmental organizations teamed up to create a new permanent preserve. Much of the work was overseen by Westervelt Ecological Services, which was created by the Alabama lumber company to promote responsible ecological stewardship. Assisting was the Placer Land Trust as well as US Fish and Wildlife.

It's a particularly important time to provide care for California Red-Legged Frogs. Amphibians everywhere are at risk of developing a new illness called Chitridiomycosis. The disease is caused by a fungus that grows on the frogs' skin, causing a hyperkeratonizing that prevents osmosis. Frogs breathe through their skin, and the thickening caused by the disease is fatal.

In recent years, researchers have found piles of dead frogs throughout the Sierras. Nobody knows why the disease has suddenly struck, although human intervention is a likely culprit. Chitridiomycosis has been identified throughout the world, including in San Francisco.

This year, a new treatment has been proposed for the disease: a bacterial bath that may bolster the frogs' defense mechanisms. The frogs are currently hibernating, and we'll know if the inoculations were successful when they emerge in the late spring.

The new sanctuary, to be called "The Big Gun Preserve," is located next to Tahoe. Its ponds and chaparral will provide excellent habitat for the frogs -- if they survive.

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