This young mountain yellow-legged frog, seen in San Bernardino County, Calif., is less than 1 1/2 inches long. Adults measure about 2 to 3 inches long. Scientists are trying to revive the frog population that has been decimated by drought, fire and diseases.
State fish and game officials are considering adding yellow-legged frogs to California's endangered species list.
Two species of yellow-legged frog – one in the Sierra Nevada, one more commonly found farther south – have long lived among vernal pools and streams in California's mountains. But their numbers are declining.
A group called the Center for Biological Diversity has hounded the state, asking for more protection for the frogs. The center maintains that they've disappeared from 93 percent of their historic habitat, and Fish and Game's trout stocking program is at least partly responsible.
Officials from that department stock mountain streams with hatchery fish – part of a longstanding effort to promote angling and the revenue fishermen generate when they shell out for licenses.
The state's practice of trout stocking is already under fire. Some biologists say it creates ecological harm, while some fishermen say it's too inconsistent.
Protecting the frogs could also mean closing some wild areas to hikers and climbers.
All these are reasons the California Department of Fish and Game seeks public comments about the mountain yellow-legged frogs in the next month. After that, the state will decide what to do about their care.