California Red-Legged Frog (Rana Draytonii)
The largest native frog west of the Mississippi, the California Red-Legged Frog (Rana Draytonii) is a magnificent creature with a very troubled past. The wealth generated by the gold rush spurred on a high demand for frog legs, a delicacy at the time. Harvested until its numbers dwindled, the American Bullfrog was introduced to the region to meet demand; an even larger frog that outcompeted the CRLF in many of its native habitats.
As development continued, the CRLF's native range was fragmented and quickly reduced as native marshy habitats were drained for agricultural use. Today, the CRLF's range is less than 30% of what it once was, and this number continues to drop as suburban sprawl results in the destruction and contamination of riparian habitats.
Recently, the California Red-Legged Frog has been given a much-deserved 'threatened' status in California and thereby its habitats must be protected. Red-legged frog populations on the UCSC campus are unknown, but suspected to be much lower than their original level; development, agricultural waste, erosion, and the bisection of the traffic-heavy Empire Grade with their breeding grounds haven't made it easy for the CRLF.
So, naturally, I was very excited to see one of these lovely amphibians in the flesh as I trudged through the thick brush of Moore Gulch with my Animal Tracking class. I have pored over government documents detailing conservation action in preparation for class reports and the like, so finding one really completed the experience.
Thanks to squamatologist for the id confirmation.