Bullfrogs Under Threat in California
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According to this week's edition of Sacramento News & Review, if federal legislators have their way, they'll do more than threaten this invasive species that is "bull"-ying the endangered California red-legged frog. Calaveras County, and Angels Camp, home of the Jumping Frog Jubilee, is sticking up for their fat friends. The town of Angels Camp holds an annual festival celebrating these bullfrogs (not the red-legged frogs), complete with a "Frog Hop Hall of Fame" on Main Street, tshirts and other memorability available at the festival each May. Mark Twain even referenced the town in The Notorious Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County. Clearing the frogs out of the county does not sound like
The bullfrogs really do "bully" the smaller frogs, eating their tadpoles and researchers are even finding "red-legged frogs in the stomachs of bullfrogs." So the US Fish and Wildlife Service is encouraging farmers to push back on bullfrogs and make life difficult. For example, bullfrogs need year-round water, so farmers are supposed to drain their ponds. Bullfrogs "will wither and die," while red-legged frogs will just burrow into the mud and wait til the next rains return.
Residents of Calaveras County may not be so agreeable, particularly since the bullfrog has been in the area for over 100 years. Many have lived in Angels Camp for most of their lives, participated in the annual festival and say they see bullfrogs all the time, while many have never seen a red-legged frog. The federal government is proposing setting aside 1.8 million acres as critical habitat, but as much of this is privately owned, the government is prepared to encounter resistance, as the preserve will also require halting some development projects.
Researchers don't plan to start a breeding program at this point, feeling that improving habitat conditions will be better for helping red-legged frogs recover. Bullfrogs are not the only threat to the red-legged frogs, as pesticides and habitat loss are at least as big a threat. California is also not the only area threatened, as South Korea and France are both battling these bullies which were introduced into the area to feed the populace and as a delicacy on menus, respectively.
Does a non-native species that has been around for over a century have any rights in this issue, even if it is threatening the livelihood of other species? What about when the "native" species is extremely rare (for a number of reasons), does it still have rights over other species? In the contest over preserving native species, what actually constitutes native and in the end do the bullys win?