In the hills outside of Los Angeles, a fire burned for five weeks last fall, killing two firefighters, destroying 89 homes, and leaving an area about a quarter the size of Rhode Island scorched and smelling of ash.
Yet there are survivors in this charred wasteland — ground squirrels, crows, and to the great surprise of biologists who found them nestled in one rocky creek just outside the burn area, a population of frogs thought to be nearly extinct in Southern California
They’re members of a species known as the California red-legged frog. About the size of a child’s baseball glove, with powerful crimson-dappled legs and bulging black-and-yellow eyes, they are the largest frog species west of the Mississippi.
But having narrowly escaped the flames, as well as human development and a disease that has pushed them to the very brink of existence, this endangered frog lies in the path of yet another life-threatening hazard — the coming rains. The post-fire, poorly vegetated landscape is prone to flooding, which could signal the end for the lonely red-legged frog.
Life wasn’t always so precarious. The pools and creeks in these parts once teemed with red-legged frogs; during California’s gold rush, they were a staple of the gold miner’s diet: frog leg stew, grilled frog legs, frog leg fricassee. They even starred in Mark Twain’s short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”
Read full story HERE.