A threatened species of frog thought to have inspired Mark Twain´s tale of “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” has been rediscovered in the county, some 34 years after the frogs last were seen in the area.
The 6- and 10-year-old children of a cattle rancher found the California red-legged frogs while playing around watering holes on their property in the western portion of the county.
The last such sighting in Calaveras County was in 1969.
Robert Stack of the Jumping Frog Research Institute jokes that the frogs are direct descendants of “Dan´l Webster” – Twain´s fictional frog.
Bullfrogs now are used at the annual Calaveras County Fair and Frog Jumping Jubilee named after Twain´s fictional 1865 challenge.
Calaveras County Supervisor Lucy Thein said she is “thrilled” with the news of the discovery, saying, “It is my hope that we can make this news something very positive for the county, the family, and of course, the frog.”
“The family is doing a wonderful thing, inviting a team of biologists to recommend good stewardship practices for the frog, while maintaining the economic viability of their ranch,” Stack said. “It is our responsibility as scientists and representatives of governmental agencies to respect the family´s wishes as we all try to move forward in doing right by Mark Twain´s beloved frog.”
At this time, the family, the frog institute and government agencies do not wish to identify the specific location of the ranch or divulge the family´s last name. They want to discourage visitation from potential sightseers so as to protect the frog and its sensitive habitat.
“All the frogs are found on private property, and efforts to observe them would involve crossing fences and trespassing on private property,” Stack said. “I think most people will respect what we´re trying to do out here.
When asked if he sees potential conflicts between running his cattle and saving the red-legged frog, Danny was quick to respond, “Cows have grazed this ranch for 150 years. They must get along with the frog or the frogs wouldn´t still be here.”
Hankins said there are native populations of red-legged frogs on working cattle ranches in the East Bay and Marin County, and the Fish and Wildlife Service is looking forward to working with the family and county in a cooperative manner to achieve the same thing here.
Dr. Eric Thomas, associate professor of biology at the University of Pacific in Stockton, is among the group of scientists who will offer recommendations on how to best balance a rancher´s need to make a living with his desire to be a good steward of his land.
“Ranches are obviously a vital part of our food production industry,”said Thomas. “But they also can provide much-needed open space and a safe habitat for frogs and other wildlife, when managed properly.”
The children are united in their thoughts on having red-legged frogs on their property.
When asked if he wanted to say anything to the public, Beau pleaded, “Please help us save our frogs.”
Associated Press and Calaveras Enterprise story