Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 23, 2014

Contact: Jeff Miller, (510) 499-9185

Report on Vanishing Species: Alpine Frog From California Identified
Among 10 Plants and Animals on Fast Track to Extinction

SAN FRANCISCO— The mountain yellow-legged frog is highlighted in a report released today by the Endangered Species Coalition describing 10 disappearing species from around the country that could be lost in our lifetime. The frog was once common at higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Southern California, but today is on the brink of extinction, with 90 percent of remaining populations supporting fewer than 10 frogs. Today’s report, Vanishing: Ten American Species Our Children May Never See, chronicles the demise of the frog and nine other once-common species that are now threatened with extinction.

Mountain yellow-legged frog
Photo by Adam Backlin, USGS. This photo is available for media use.

“Frogs have successfully thrived on our planet since the time of the dinosaurs, but now the mountain yellow legged frog and 30 percent of all amphibian species are facing extinction due to human actions,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity, which nominated the mountain yellow-legged frog for today’s report and petitioned for its federal protection in 2000.

The mountain yellow-legged frog is threatened throughout its range by many factors, including disease, predation by introduced trout, climate change, pesticides, off-road vehicles and livestock grazing.

The other species highlighted in today’s report are the monarch butterfly, little brown bat, polar bear, great white shark, rusty-patched bumblebee, whitebark pine, North Pacific right whale, greater sage grouse and Snake River sockeye salmon.

In addition to exploring the causes of the dramatic population declines of these once-common species, today’s report identifies everyday actions that people can take to help slow their disappearance. The report can be downloaded from

Mountain Yellow-legged Frog Background
Mountain yellow-legged frogs, named for their bright sun-yellow to pale-lemon colored undersides, live only in alpine lakes that are deep enough not to dry up in summer or freeze entirely in winter. Their eyes have beautiful gold irises. The frogs can be numerous colors, including green, brown, red, gray or yellow, and have dark spots on their backs. Females are bigger than males, growing up to 3 inches long, and the largest females lay the most eggs.

More than 92 percent of the historic mountain yellow-legged frog populations in the Sierra Nevada Mountains have gone extinct. The extinction rate for mountain yellow-legged frogs in Southern California is close to 98 percent - frogs there are now limited to nine precariously small populations in the San Gabriel, San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains.

In April 2014 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protected two populations of mountain yellow-legged frogs — the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae) and the northern population of the mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa) — as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. The Southern California population was protected as endangered in 2002.

Center lawsuits against the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have led to restrictions on stocking invasive trout in habitats occupied by mountain yellow-legged frogs throughout the Sierra Nevada. Earlier this year the Center filed suit against the Interior Department to force the development of a long-overdue recovery plan for Southern California’s mountain yellow-legged frogs.

For today’s report Endangered Species Coalition member groups nominated wildlife species and a committee of scientists decided which species should be included. The coalition produces a “Top 10” report annually, focusing on a different theme each year. Previous years’ reports are available on the coalition’s website.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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