Northern Leopard Frog Survey, 2005
Kris Kendell, Scott Stevens, and Dave Prescott
Over the last 40 years, northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens) populations have declined dramatically over much of their North American range, including in Alberta. Although little-studied, the decline in Alberta populations appears to be the result of several factors including habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and water diversion.
The northern leopard frog is designated as a “Threatened” species in Alberta and in 2004, the Minister of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (ASRD) established a recovery team for the species to ensure that populations are restored and maintained. This team prepared an action-oriented recovery plan in 2005 with an overall goal to achieve well-distributed and self-sustaining populations of northern leopard frogs throughout their historical range in Alberta. In 2005, the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) and ASRD, in partnership with the Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP) and the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP), undertook a northern leopard frog provincial inventory and habitat assessment project as a first step toward the recovery of this species. This report details key findings from the 2005 provincial inventory and habitat assessment project.
Through the course of the survey, 177 historically occupied northern leopard frog sites were investigated. Northern leopard frogs of at least one age class were observed at 73 of these sites, and at an additional three sites that were reported by the public. The largest concentrations of frogs occurred in the Brooks, Cypress Hills, Medicine Hat, and Strathmore areas of the province. Breeding sites were found at 13 of the locations surveyed.
Habitat quality was higher at occupied than at unoccupied sites and threats to habitat occurred at approximately two thirds of northern leopard frog sites; the most common threat was cattle damage to pond edge and shoreline. Occupied northern leopard frog sites tended to occur more often in areas of native prairie.
In total, 172 landowners were contacted throughout the course of the survey. Most had positive attitudes with respect to wildlife, the Species at Risk program, and stewardship.
Data from this survey provides valuable baseline information for future reintroductions of northern leopard frogs and for the formation of stewardship agreements at sites with habitat threats.