Moving day: Relict leopard frogs swimmingly happy in their new pad

Story and photos by Rachel T. Carnahan, Arizona Strip District Public Affairs Specialist.

Moving into a new pad is huge. For teens, it’s even more so. With that first taste of freedom comes new friends, new hangouts, and the thrill of new adventures. It’s an exciting transition that a couple hundred juvenile relict leopard frogs recently enjoyed as they dove into their new home at Pakoon Springs in Arizona’s Mojave Desert on April 28, 2022. While the rough, sweltering Mojave may not seem like the ideal place for 85 tadpoles, 173 metamorphs, and 95 subadults, the frogs are now swimmingly happy.

A juvenile relict leopard frog in the water at Pakoon Springs
A juvenile relict leopard frog is released to its historic range at Pakoon Springs in Arizona’s Mojave Desert on April 28, 2022.

The relict leopard frog was reintroduced at Pakoon Springs because it is part of its historic range. Coming from Black Canyon and Northshore spring genetic stock, these frogs are right at home as Pakoon Springs is part of the Virgin and Colorado River drainage their parents and grandparents—generations of relict leopard frog antecedents—originally hailed from before their dramatic decline during the 20th century. The good news is a rich family legacy; by 2001, the toughest of their species had survived, and have been living out their days in Nevada’s neighboring Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

After Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Park Service partners completed significant restoration work over two decades at Pakoon Springs, the Relict Leopard Frog Conservation Team identified the site as a potential site for reintroduction. The team includes, among others, the BLM, University of Nevada Las Vegas, NPS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and state wildlife agencies from Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. Employees from Grand Canyon – Parashant National Monument (jointly managed by the BLM and National Park Service) spent years mindfully restoring Pakoon Springs, complete with the sedges, rock, and algae amenities these frogs prefer.

A BLM biologist releases relict leopard frogs from a bucket into the water.
A BLM biologist for Grand Canyon – Parashant National Monument works with Arizona Game and Fish Department and University of Nevada Las Vegas partner biologists to release relict leopard frogs to their historic range at Pakoon Springs in Arizona’s Mojave Desert.
BLM and agency partners hold buckets with the frogs near the water.
BLM and agency partners at the Arizona Game and Fish Department and University of Nevada Las Vegas work together to release relict leopard frogs at Pakoon Springs in Arizona’s Mojave Desert.

BLM, along with its partners from the NPS, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Arizona Game and Fish Department, the USFWS, and Nevada and Utah state wildlife agencies, will check on the young frogs periodically to ensure they transition smoothly to their new pad. With good care from these friends, the relict leopard frogs at Pakoon Springs will become a self-sustaining, thriving population for many years to come.