In addition to all the other animals that call the Pacific Northwest home, there are several species of frogs that also live in the region! One such species is the Oregon Spotted Frog (Rana pretiosa), which is found in different areas of the northwest. They can be difficult to find in the wild, as they are pretty reclusive, and as such, there’s still a lot to be discovered about the species, including their impact on the surrounding ecosystem. There are only about 30 or so known populations of these frogs, with most being in the state of Oregon and it’s estimated that they’re gone from 80-90% of their former range.

This frog was named after the black spots that cover its body, head, sides, and legs. Their color will change slightly with age, with young frogs being brown or olive green on their back and white with red pigments on their abdomen. Older spotted frogs will often be redder all over and will also have darker, larger spots. They’re also about medium in size and get to be around 2-4 inches in length. The Oregon Spotted Frog does look similar to other native true frog species in the Pacific Northwest, like the Columbia spotted frog, Cascades frog, and northern red-legged frog, but have been classified as their own species for a while now.

The Oregon Spotted Frog is an exceptionally aquatic species, even compared to other native frog species, and will rarely leave the water. They’re often found in or near a perennial body of water and wetlands near lakes, ponds, slow-moving streams, and even ditches provide a great habitat. Their diets consist primarily of aquatic insects, like spiders and ground beetles, and female Oregon Spotted Frogs will often communally lay their eggs. The egg masses could easily contain 400-700 eggs from 75 different females!

Thanks to urban development and climate change, this species is currently classified as threatened and face threats like habitat loss, invasive predators/other species, and introduced plants that displace important native plants. One such threat is the American Bullfrog, which is considered to be invasive and exotic after being introduced in the early 20th century. These bullfrogs continue to compete with native frog species like the Oregon Spotted Frog for resources and habitats and will even eat the Oregon Spotted Frog if given the chance. Another threat is pollution, as all amphibians have permeable skin and are vulnerable to pollutants. These specific frogs will often live in relative proximity to agricultural areas, which means they live in proximity to agricultural chemicals like nitrogen-based compounds in fertilizer.

Along with protection and the fight for conservation, community partnerships may be key to the recovery of the Oregon Spotted Frog. For a long time, Thurston and Klickitat Counties were the only areas in Washington where there were known populations of this frog. But recent research has shown other populations around Washington and Oregon, like in Whatcom County. Organizations like the Biological Diversity Center and Oregon Zoo have spent decades researching and advocating for Oregon Spotted Frogs, helping to secure protection for the frog under the Endangered Species Act and protecting critical habitats. The US Fish & Wildlife Service announced a Draft Recovery Plan for the Oregon Spotted Frog in March 2023.

Most people won’t see an Oregon Spotted Frog out in the wild and others may be indifferent toward frogs in general. But these frogs and many other native frogs are vital to their ecosystems and to our world and play a role in the biodiversity of the Pacific Northwest. By caring for the Oregon Spotted Frog and fighting for them, we can care for the earth as well.

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