This amphibian only lives in California. I’ve encountered them several times on my visits to the Golden State, though they are federally listed as a threatened species and are protected by law.
This species is estimated to have disappeared from 70% of its range; it is an important food source for the endangered San Francisco Garter Snake. Two reasons for this amphibian’s decline are invasive species and habitat loss.
The California Red-legged Frog became famous for being the frog featured in Mark Twain’s short story The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.
At two to five inches long, it is the largest native frog in the western United States. It has a reddish coloring on the underside of the legs and belly. The back and top of the legs are covered in black spots or blotches. Typically, the face has a dark mask and a tan or light colored stripe above the jaw that extends to the shoulder.
Like most frogs, they will eat just about anything they can catch and fit in their mouths. Most of the time their food is insects. Their favored habitat is slow-moving or standing deep ponds, pools and streams. Tall vegetation, like grasses, cattails and shrubs, provide protection from predators and the sun.
Some of its challenges are non-native American Bullfrogs (which are well established in California) competing for habitat as well as eating them. Another challenge is homes, farms and buildings being built on their wetland habitats.
I enjoy coming across these very cool creatures when visiting the West Coast, hopefully a way will be found to preserve what’s left of their population.