Species Profile

Northern Leopard Frog Rocky Mountain population

Scientific Name: Lithobates pipiens
Other/Previous Names: Northern Leopard Frog (Southern Mountain population)
Taxonomy Group: Amphibians
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: December 2021
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: B1ab(iii,v)+2ab(iii,v); C2a(i,ii); D1
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: The Canadian distribution of this frog is restricted to a small area of south-central British Columbia, where a single natural population exists within the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area. Since the previous assessment, increased search efforts have extended the frog’s known range by approximately 1.5-2.5 km. Habitat restoration and seasonal road closures have been undertaken to mitigate threats. Reintroductions have continued at two sites (Upper Kootenay Floodplain and Columbia Marshes) but are not yet self-sustaining. Restricted range and small population size (estimated at fewer than 50 mature individuals), together with declining habitat quality and ongoing cumulative high impact threats from disease, introduced American Bullfrogs, and road mortality, contributed to the retention of Endangered status.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in April 1998. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2000, April 2009, and in December 2021.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Northern Leopard Frog

Northern Leopard Frog Photo 1

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Description

The Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens) is 60 to 110 millimetres in length, with females generally larger than males. It may be either green or brown on the dorsal surface, which is covered with large, rounded dark spots outlined with light halos. The underside is white. Two light-coloured dorsolateral ridges line its back, one on each side, from behind the eyes to the lower back. Three designatable units (DUs) are recognized in order to accurately portray the status of the Northern Leopard Frog in Canada. These are based on evidence for genetic distinction between western and eastern populations and the isolation of populations west of the Rocky Mountains. The Rocky Mountain DU consists of populations in British Columbia. The Prairie/Western Boreal DU contains the populations in the Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and Manitoba approximately west of the Canadian Shield. The Eastern DU consisting of all those populations of the Canadian Shield, Great Lakes/St. Lawrence, Appalachian/Atlantic Coast and Carolinian faunal provinces. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Distribution and Population

The Northern Leopard Frog is widely distributed in North America, from southeastern British Columbia to Labrador and from the southcentral Northwest Territories down through the central and southwestern United States near to Mexico. The Northern Leopard Frog was introduced to Vancouver Island and Newfoundland, but is believed now to be extirpated from these areas. In British Columbia, the Northern Leopard Frog is currently restricted to only one historic location in the southeast corner of the province. In Alberta, the majority of extant populations are now restricted to the southeastern portion of the province. Current distribution information for Saskatchewan is largely lacking. Small populations are known to exist in the region north of Lake Athabaska in northeast Alberta and northwest Saskatchewan, into adjacent southern Northwest Territories. The Northern Leopard Frog is believed to be relatively widespread in southern Manitoba. In eastern Canada, despite some regional declines, the species continues to be relatively widespread. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Habitat

The Northern Leopard Frog uses three distinct habitat types during its lifecycle. Overwintering occurs in cold, well oxygenated water bodies that do not freeze solid. Breeding and larval life occur in pools, ponds, marshes and lakes, and may occasionally occur in slow moving streams and creeks. Moist upland meadows and native prairie are used during the summer. Riparian areas and ponds facilitate dispersal and provide additional corridors for movement between habitats. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Biology

The Northern Leopard Frog emerges from overwintering sites shortly after ice has melted in early spring. Calling by the males, indicating breeding activity, occurs as early as mid-April in some locations, and can continue until June in other, more northerly regions. Females can deposit up to 7,000 eggs, which are attached to submerged vegetation. The rate of embryonic development depends on water temperature and may take nearly two weeks in cool water temperatures. Tadpoles take approximately two to three months to reach metamorphosis, after which, as small frogs, they move into summer foraging habitat to feed on a variety of insects. The Northern Leopard Frog typically lives for a maximum of four to five years. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Threats

The Northern Leopard Frog is threatened by emerging diseases such as chytridiomycosis, and the introduction of non-native species, including fishes that prey upon tadpoles and adults and invasive species of plants. Introduced bullfrogs are an added source of predation in western Canada. The species’ varying habitat requirements make it particularly susceptible to anthropogenic habitat change, thus habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, environmental contamination and increased incidence and severity of drought are all threats. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Northern Leopard Frog, Rocky Mountain population, is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens), Rocky Mountain population in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date The Northern Leopard Frog (southern Mountain population) recovery team aims to secure the frog’s habitat, reduce adult mortality due to chytrid fungus and tadpole mortality due to predation by aquatic insects and fish, and establish five additional populations. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities In the early 1990s and again in 1998 and 1999 extensive surveys were conducted in the East Kootenay to search for remnant populations. However, there were no sightings, confirming that the southern mountain population only survives in the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area. This population has been monitored since 1997 with visual surveys and surveys of egg masses and calling activity, as well as radio telemetry. Reproductive success of the frogs has been very low, and researchers are investigating potential reasons for that. Researchers are trying to determine the magnitude of the impact of adult mortality due to chytrid fungus. Additionally, genetic variability has been shown to be low, and this may also contribute to the frogs’ low reproductive success if there are inbreeding problems. Research conducted on the movements and habitat requirements of the frog has been used to help identify reintroduction sites with suitable habitat and to identify opportunities for habitat restoration within the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area. Between 2000 and 2005, numerous dead and dying adult frogs have been observed; these frogs have been diagnosed with chytridiomycosis, an infectious fungal disease. Tissue samples have been collected from infected Northern Leopard Frogs and several other species in the area, to determine if other species carry the fungus as well. Researchers are investigating potential treatment options. Summary of Recovery Activities A captive rearing/reintroduction program was initiated in 2001, with 496 juvenile frogs released in the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area. A frog survey later in the year indicated the release had been a success. The rearing/reintroduction effort was then expanded, with approximately 20,000 tadpoles and juvenile frogs released between 2002 and 2004 in the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area and Bummer Flats Conservation Area. In 2002-3, a habitat enhancement project was conducted at a breeding pond. Water management was improved through the creation of a channel to ensure that the pond did not dry up prior to the completion of metamorphosis. In 2004, a wetland restoration project was conducted in the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area to restore habitat for many wetland species. The wetland had become overgrown with bullrush and cattails, and therefore did not provide suitable amphibian breeding habitat. The wetland was drained, the cattail and bullrush removed through mowing and tilling, and then the wetland was reflooded. In 2005, a Northern Leopard Frog population was discovered using the wetland. The restored wetland had been colonized by captive-reared frogs released 3 km away.

Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

11 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the northern leopard frog Rana pipiens (Southern Mountain and Western Boreal/Prairie populations) in Canada (1998-11-01)

    Declines in Rana pipiens populations were first noticed in the early 1970s. Prior to that, this medium-sized frog was widespread and locally common to very abundant across its range, which comprised most of central North America except for the west coast (although it had been introduced to Vancouver Island). Over the following decade, most western populations suffered varying degrees of decline while eastern populations remained intact. Because there was very little monitoring during that time period the spatial and temporal spread of the decline is unclear. The western populations in Canada are the subject of this status report.
  • COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Northern Leopard Frog Lithobates pipiens in Canada (2009-08-28)

    The Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens) is 60 to 110 millimetres in length, with females generally larger than males. It may be either green or brown on the dorsal surface, which is covered with large, rounded dark spots outlined with light halos. The underside is white. Two light-coloured dorsolateral ridges line its back, one on each side, from behind the eyes to the lower back.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Northern Leopard Frog, Rocky Mountain population (2009-11-25)

    Although previously found in many localities in southeastern British Columbia and the Okanagan, this frog has suffered severe declines in both distribution and abundance, and now exists in extremely small numbers at only a single native population in the Creston valley.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens), Rocky Mountain population in Canada (2017-12-22)

    The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change is the competent minister under SARA for the Northern Leopard Frog, Rocky Mountain population and has prepared the federal component of this recovery strategy (Part 1), as per section 37 of SARA. It has been prepared in cooperation with the Province of British Columbia and the Northern Leopard Frog Recovery Team as per section 39(1) of SARA. SARA section 44 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub-sections 41(1) or (2)). The Province of British Columbia provided the attached recovery plan for the Northern Leopard Frog (Part 2) as science advice to the jurisdictions responsible for managing the species in British Columbia. It was prepared in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Orders

  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 146, number 14, 2012) (2012-07-04)

    The purpose of the Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act is to add 18 species to Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (the List), and to reclassify 7 listed species, pursuant to subsection 27(1) of SARA. This amendment is made on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and on consultations with governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the Canadian public.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2009 (2009-08-28)

    2009 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#SARA-PYR-2007-0054), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2007-05-21)

    To determine if a re-introduced population of Northern Leopard Frogs are surviving and breeding at a historic site, the proponent will be conducting the following activities that involve direct handling of animals: i) visual encounter surveys and ii) disease monitoring. i. Visual encounter surveys - One survey per week will be conducted systematically throughout the study area. Animals will be captured, measured, and inspected visually for disease. Once the animal has been processed, it will be released at the capture site immediately. ii. Disease monitoring - To determine if chytridiomycosis is present, captured frogs will be swabbed with a sterile swab ten times along the abdomen, groin and thighs. Swabs will be placed in a sterile test tube and sealed with no fixative. Frogs will be immediately released at the location at which they were caught.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#SARA-PYR-2009-0114), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2009-08-17)

    To determine if a re-introduced population of Northern Leopard Frogs are surviving and breeding at a historic site, the proponent will be conducting the following activities that involve direct handling of animals: i) visual encounter surveys and ii) disease monitoring. i. Visual encounter surveys - Up to two surveys per week will be conducted systematically throughout the study area. Animals will be captured, measured, weighed and inspected visually for disease. Once the animal has been processed, it will be released at the capture site immediately. ii. Disease monitoring - To determine if chytridiomycosis is present, captured frogs will be swabbed with a sterile swab along the abdomen, groin and thighs. Swabs will be placed in a sterile test tube and sealed. Frogs will be immediately released at the location at which they were caught.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#SARA-PYR-2010-0150), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2010-06-08)

    To determine if a re-introduced population of Northern Leopard Frogs are surviving and breeding at a historic site, the proponent will be conducting the following activities that involve direct handling of animals: i) visual encounter surveys and ii) nocturnal calling surveys. i. Visual encounter surveys - Up to two surveys per week will be conducted systematically throughout the study area. Animals will be captured, measured, weighed and inspected visually for disease. To determine if chytridiomycosis is present, captured frogs will be swabbed with a sterile swab along the abdomen, groin and thighs. Swabs will be placed in a sterile test tube and sealed. Frogs will be immediately released at the location at which they were caught. Once the animal has been processed, it will be released at the capture site immediately. ii. Nocturnal calling surveys - call stations will be established along transects..

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette

  • Description of the Northern Leopard Frog, Rocky Mountain population, critical habitat in the Columbia National Wildlife Area (2020-03-06)

    The Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens), Rocky Mountain population, is listed as endangered on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act. The Rocky Mountain population of the Northern Leopard Frog occurs entirely in British Columbia and can currently be found in three areas of southeastern British Columbia. Habitat requirements for the Northern Leopard Frog include overwintering sites in water bodies that do not freeze, breeding and larval sites in wetlands and slow-moving streams, and native meadows for summer adult use. Riparian areas and dispersal corridors are also important for this species to facilitate migration between seasonal habitats.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016-07-06)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update December 2, 2021
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