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Chiricahua leopard frog (Rana chiricahuensis).

Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Rana chiricahuensis) On June 14, we proposed to list the Chiricahua leopard frog as threatened due to the effects of non-native predators, disease, habitat loss, and potential natural events, such as floods and drought. The proposal includes a special rule encouraging ranchers to continue their regular management of livestock tanks (impoundments maintained as livestock watering holes) that harbor leopard frogs.

The Chiricahua leopard frog is found in ponds, streams, stock tanks, and other aquatic sites in the mountains of central and east-central Arizona and west-central New Mexico, and in the mountains and valleys of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. The species is also known from several sites in Chihuahua, and from single sites in Sonora and Durango, Mexico.

The causes of the species' decline are not completely clear, but biologists believe the frog faces a variety of threats, including nonnative predators (particularly fish, bullfrogs, and crayfish), habitat loss and fragmentation, disease, and environmental contamination. The species apparently has disappeared from entire mountain ranges, valleys, and river drainages within its historic range.

A wide variety of organizations and individuals are involved in Chiricahua leopard frog conservation activities. The Nature Conservancy and New Mexico Game and Fish Department are undertaking conservation efforts on the Mimbres River. Ranchers in southeast Arizona's San Bernardino Valley are working with the University of Arizona and San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge to construct and maintain habitat for frogs. The Tonto National Forest, Phoenix Zoo, and Arizona Game and Fish Department have reared frogs in captivity and established or reintroduced populations in the Gentry Creek area. Students at Douglas High School and Douglas Public School District in southeast Arizona also have created award-winning outdoor classrooms for the rearing of leopard frogs.

The frog historically occurred at 212 sites in Arizona, 170 sites in New Mexico, and 12 or 13 sites in Mexico. Since 1995, the frog has been found at only 52 Arizona and 27 New Mexico sites, while the status of populations in Mexico is unknown. Of the 79 remaining U.S. populations, 47 occur on Forest Service lands, mostly in the Coronado National Forest. Some can also be found in the Apache-Sitgreaves, Tonto, and Coconino National Forests in Arizona and the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. The other populations are primarily on private lands.

Many Chiricahua leopard frog populations occupy stock tanks. The special rule in the proposed listing is designed to allow operation and maintenance of stock tanks that support frogs on nonfederal land without the usually required permits authorizing "take" of a listed species, should the maintenance incidentally harass, harm, or kill a leopard frog.

We plan to work with other federal agencies and local planning groups to restore and conserve wetlands that provide vital habitat for the species. Controlling non-native aquatic species will also be necessary for the survival of the frog.
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Publication:Endangered Species Update
Date:Nov 1, 2001
Words:474
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