Northern Leopard Frog Reintroduction Strategy for Alberta
Kris Kendell and Dave Prescott
The northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens) has suffered dramatic population declines in many parts of its range in Alberta that have resulted in fragmented populations that are separated by large expanses of unsuitable habitat. As a result, the northern leopard frog is severely limited in its recolonization potential in Alberta. The reduced area of occupancy and fragmented populations have led to the species being listed as Threatened under Alberta's Wildlife Act, first in 1996, and reaffirmed in 2003. Consequently, in 2004, the Minister of Sustainable Resource Development established the Alberta Northern Leopard Frog Recovery Team (ANLFRT), which drafted a recovery plan, the Alberta Northern Leopard Frog Recovery Plan (ANLFRP) that was approved by the Minister in 2005. The ANLFRP describes strategies and actions necessary for achieving the provincial goal of a “well-distributed, self-sustaining population of northern leopard frogs throughout their historical range in Alberta”.
Several reintroductions have been attempted in the past to reestablish the northern leopard frog in select areas of the province. These attempts were met with only limited success; however at one site, a self-sustaining northern leopard frog population was achieved. Not withstanding, reintroduction was identified by the ANLFRP as a key strategy to overcome the improbable natural recolonization for the northern leopard frog in Alberta. The ANLFRT believes that the recovery of the northern leopard frog in Alberta is achievable, but also recognizes that reintroduction is a complex process. This document details the methodologies required to maximize the probability of successful reintroductions of northern leopard frogs into vacant historical habitats in Alberta. The information herein provides guidelines that are based on the best available expert opinion and knowledge acquired through previous reintroduction attempts for the species in Alberta and other jurisdictions. This document discusses issues that must be considered while conducting reintroductions, such as the selection of priority watersheds and sub-watersheds, choice of life stage to relocate, selection of source sites, characteristics of relocation sites, the reintroduction process (i.e., translocations of animals), monitoring activities and schedule, and assessment of success.
The ANLFRT reintroduction strategy is a living document, and as such, will be evaluated in 2008 and refined as necessary.