Rare yellow-legged frogs are returned to drought-hammered San Gabriel Mountains of Sonoma County every year as their habitats dry up and are destroyed by golf courses, tennis courts, or other developments that can’t be legally mitigated by homeowners.
To save their habitats and protect species from extinction, people must stop destroying California’s last remaining yellow-bellied frogs.
“The most important thing is that we protect the fragile nature of the frogs, because if we don’t do it, the entire species will go extinct,” said biologist Robert D. Peterson, University of California, Davis. Researchers call the species the “yellow-bellied” frog after its yellow-tipped legs.
The San Gabriel Mountains in Sonoma County were once part of a dry, grassy ecosystem. But more than a decade ago, a golf course was built on a ridge at the head of the canyon known as Glenwood Canyon. Soon after, a public tennis court was built on the same site. Now there are two tennis courts, a golf course and a large home, all on the same slopes.
Peterson and other scientists want to save the yellow-bellied frog, which lives only in shallow, moist places in the wetter mountains, from the threat of being wiped out.
“It is the last species of the group,” said Peterson. “They are the most important frog groups on the planet.”
The yellow-legs inhabit nearly every type of habitat in the mountains, he said.
“They are the only species in the genus Dendrobates that can make its home here. It’s common to see them in wetland areas. It gets them out of the dry valleys,” said Peterson, who has studied the frogs for more than 40 years.
Peterson’s research has shown that as golf courses, tennis courts and other developments are built in a particular place, it also destroys other parts of the ecosystem, causing the yellow-bellied frog to move elsewhere.
“It’s all a matter of how far you push before you start feeling the effects,” explained Peterson. “I’m not talking about how far you push. I’m talking about how many times you push until you feel impact.�