How many teenagers do you know
who get up at 6 a.m. on Saturday
and go to school by choice?
Jason Wurtz is one. The seniortobe at
Pahranagat Valley High School in Alamo,
NV, volunteers his free time taking care
of some rare amphibians, and he often
gets up early to do it.
Several springs at Pahranagat National
Wildlife Refuge near Alamo serve as a
southern stronghold for northern leopard
frogs. The population of the small, native
frogs in the western United States is
declining across much of their historical
range. However, the frogs at the refuge
are doing well. With Wurtzs help over
the past three years and with the support
of science teacher Wesley Wilson, they
are expanding their population and the
number of sites they occupy.
How is Wurtz contributing to the
amphibians wellbeing? He keeps them
Each February, as the frogs breeding
season approaches, Wurtz prepares
aquariums housed in the high schools
agriculture classroom. The aquariums
and associated supplies are furnished by
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
through Pahranagat Refuge.
When the male leopard frogs begin
serenading the females at the refuge,
Wurtz knows it wont be long before egg
masses can be found in the springs.
When at least three leopard frog egg
masses are located, usually in early
March, a refuge biologist or Wurtz
collects a portion of one of the masses.
The freshly laid eggs are delivered to the
school, where Wurtz places them in an
aquarium and dotes over them like a
Within days the eggs hatch into tadpoles,
which require daily care and feeding.
Wurtz watches over the newborns. He
regularly checks the water quality,
monitors water temperature and
provides the tadpoles with a daily diet of
special flaked food that helps them grow
and remain healthy.
By late June or early July, the tadpoles
become inchlong froglets, and Wurtz
must bid them farewell. The froglets are
returned to Pahranagat Refuge and
released into the wild at one of the
springs, hopefully growing to maturity
and starting additional populations.
Adultswhich are smoothskinned,
green, brown or sometimes yellowgreen
and covered with large, oval dark spots
range from 2 to 4.5 inches in length and
live five or more years.
Protection From Predators
Captive rearing provides protection
from the many predators in nature that
typically consume most of each years
tadpoles. Last summer, the froglets were
released into a small, isolated spring
that did not have leopard frogs and was
not plagued with predatory fish or
nonnative bullfrogs that would eat
Introductions of captivereared northern
leopard frogs at the refuge over the past
two years resulted in the establishment
of a fourth population at a separate
spring site. That particular population is
now selfsustaining. Wurtzs contributions
to this effort have been critical.
Wurtz, who is a Nevada Conservation
Corps intern this summer at Pahranagat
Refuge, says he will continue rearing the
froglets next year. He hopes to pass along
the project to another student when he
graduates in spring 2014. For their part,
staff members at Pahranagat Refuge
gladly take the eggs to school to ensure
that northern leopard frogs continue to
prosper in the Pahranagat Valley.
Darrell Freeman is a wildlife biologist
until recently at Pahranagat National
Wildlife Refuge, NV, and now at Ruby
Lake National Wildlife Refuge, NV.