Questions and Answers
Wasatch Front Population of Columbia Spotted Frog
and the 12-Month Finding


Spotted Frog ImageWhat is the Columbia spotted frog? The Columbia spotted frog (spotted frog) belongs to the family of true frogs, the Ranidae. Color and pattern descriptions of individuals of the Wasatch Front population in Utah include brownish-black dorsal coloration with little to no spotting pattern. Pigmentation on their abdomens varies from yellow to red. The Columbia spotted frog is closely associated with water preferring habitats such as the marshy edges of ponds, lakes, slow-moving cool water streams and springs.


Where are Columbia spotted frogs found?

Spotted Frog Abdomen ImageThe overall distribution of the Columbia spotted frog is continuous throughout extreme southeastern Alaska, southwestern Yukon, northern British Columbia, and western Alberta; and south through Washington (east of the Cascades), eastern Oregon, Idaho, and western Montana. Its southern range includes disjunct populations in central and northeastern Nevada, southwestern Idaho, western and north-central Wyoming, and the Wasatch Front in Utah. The Wasatch Front population occurs in isolated springs or riparian wetlands in Juab, Sanpete, Summit, Utah, and Wasatch counties.

What do Columbia spotted frogs eat? Available information indicates that Columbia spotted frogs feed primarily on insects. Spotted Frog Egg Image

What is the life cycle of the Columbia spotted frog?Columbia spotted frogs emerge from hibernation in the spring. Wasatch Front Columbia spotted frog populations begin breeding in early-March and continue through late-April. Breeding usually begins with a male vocalizing, stimulating the other males to call simultaneously. The vocalization is described as a "clicking" noise or as a soft "bubbling" sound. Egg deposition is stimulated by a single pair of frogs followed by other Columbia spotted frogs depositing eggs in the same area. Egg masses are deposited in open, shallow areas near the shoreline. Depending on water temperature, the eggs will hatch tadpoles in 10 - 21 days. Columbia spotted frogs remain tadpoles for 2 - 3 months before undergoing metamorphosis into adult frogs.

Why do the petitioners believe that Columbia spotted frogs on the Wasatch Front are in trouble? Available historic and recent information indicates that the number of Columbia spotted frog populations along the Wasatch Front declined through the early- to mid-1900s. The primary reason for this decline was loss of habitat from human development and land uses. The petitioners believe that current laws do not provide sufficient protection for the Columbia spotted frog and that this species is continuing to decline today.

What is a 12-month finding? Publication in the Federal Register of a 12-month finding makes public the Service’s decision on a petition to list a species as threatened or endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act. That finding is based on a detailed assessment of the available information on the species, as detailed in the species’ status review. One of three possible conclusions can be reached as part of the finding: that listing is warranted, not warranted, or warranted but precluded by other higher-priority listing activities involving other species. The Service has determined that the Wasatch Front population of the Columbia spotted frog is not likely to become a threatened or endangered species within the foreseeable future. Therefore, we determined that listing of the Wasatch Front spotted frog as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act is not warranted.

What is being done to protect the spotted frog? The Wasatch Front population of Columbia spotted frog is currently managed under an inter-agency Conservation Agreement between federal and state natural resources agencies in Utah. The goal of the Conservation Agreement is to ensure the long-term conservation of the Columbia spotted frog within its historical range in Utah. The Conservation Agreement established a mechanism for the recovery of the Columbia spotted frog through inter-agency cooperation, coordination of conservation efforts, and development of recovery priorities. As guided by the Conservation Agreement, protection measures such as habitat acquisitions, negotiation and purchase of conservation easements with private landowners, habitat improvements, and others have been completed or are ongoing. In addition, there are numerous completed and ongoing conservation actions that have been undertaken by the State and Federal agencies directed toward the protection and enhancement of the spotted frog and its habitat

Why did the Service decide that the listing of the Wasatch Front population of Columbia spotted frog as threatened or endangered was not warranted at this time? The status review revealed that although the species was likely more wide-spread historically, the current status of the Wasatch Front population of Columbia spotted frog is toward more secure populations, reduced threats, and improved habitat conditions. The overall level of threats to the long-term persistence of the Wasatch Front spotted frog has decreased in recent years, particularly since 1998. Although most of the human activities that contributed to these threats still occur to some extent throughout the Wasatch Front, there is no longer the same level of impacts on the spotted frog that resulted in past wide-spread habitat destruction and the loss of spotted frog populations. Much of the occupied habitat for the spotted frog is under State or Federal ownership and ongoing management of these lands emphasizes the long-term persistence of the spotted frog. The Service found that the spotted frog is not in danger of extinction or likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of the Wasatch Front. Therefore, the Wasatch Front population of Columbia spotted frog is "not warranted" for listing under the ESA at this time.

Where did the Service find its information on the Wasatch Front spotted frog? Information sources used in this review included:

(1) all comments received by the Service’s request for comments (66 FR 47034; September 10, 2001);

(2) comprehensive review of the published scientific literature;

(3) unpublished agency reports and literature;

(4) land management and agency management, planning and decision documents, plans or strategies; and

(5) personal communications with pertinent academic and professional amphibian and aquatic experts, State and Federal agency wildlife managers, and known groups or individuals with specific relevant knowledge of the status of the spotted frog and its habitat.

(6) land use and growth projection data layers acquired from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and evaluated using ArcView GIS software.

Did the Service offer any recommendations regarding the management of the spotted frog? Given the success of already completed efforts in acquisition and enhancement of spotted frog habitat, the Service believes that spotted frog conservation efforts should focus on acquisition of additional occupied and unoccupied suitable habitats and range expansion efforts. The Service supports voluntary land protection mechanisms, such as conservation easements, that work in cooperation with and mutually benefit private landowners. Conservation efforts should also include reestablishment of spotted frog populations, and associated research and land management necessary to maintain new populations. The Service is encouraged by ongoing and planned state and local programs to protect and restore the spotted frog within its historic range on the Wasatch Front.

Does the spotted frog have "distinct population segments?" The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service have adopted criteria for the designation of unique animal stocks, termed a distinct population segment (DPS), under the ESA. To constitute a DPS, a stock or group of stocks must be:

(1) discrete (i.e. spatially separated from other stocks of the taxon);

(2) significant (e.g., ecologically unique for the taxon; extirpation would produce a significant gap in the taxon's range; the only surviving native stock of the taxon; or there is substantial genetic divergence between the stock and other stocks of the taxon); and

(3)the status of the stock must warrant protection under the ESA.

Based on geographic and climatic separation and supported by genetic separation, the Service recognizes 5 DPSs of spotted frogs throughout its range– (1) the main population (Alaska, British Columbia, Alberta, Wyoming, Montana, north and central Idaho, eastern Washington, and northeastern Oregon), (2) the Great Basin (southern Idaho and Nevada), (3) West Coast (western Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Nevada), (4) the Wasatch Front, Utah, and (5) the West Desert, Utah. Separation of the West Desert and Wasatch Front DPSs in Utah is supported by geographic isolation in addition to ecological and demographic distinctiveness. This 12-month finding is specific to the Wasatch Front DPS.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Jessica Gourley, 801-975-3330 x133

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources: Mark Hadley, 801-538-4737