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Take a Hike | Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, Feb 8, 2015

DianneErskineHellrigelThe Pacific tree frog, also known as the Pacific chorus frog, is a resident of Santa Clarita, living in open-space habitats and reproducing in the aquatic areas such as the creeks in Placerita, Pico Canyon and Towsley Canyon.

These little frogs can group up to 2 inches from their snout to their urostyle (back end). The males, which are smaller than the females, have a dark patch on their throats. This is a vocal sac that they use when calling to females.

Most of these frogs are various shades of green or brown with black or brown eye stripes and spots on their backs. They can also change their colors according to the brightness of their environment. These frogs may also occur in reddish color, cream and black. They have sticky disks on their toes which help them to climb and stick to various surfaces.

Pacific Chorus Frog 1The Pacific chorus frog begins breeding season in February in our area, and they can be heard from great distances, croaking away for a female. This loud, croaking “ribbit” sound attracts the females to the water where the males wait patiently for them to arrive.

The females lay their eggs in large clumps with up to 90 eggs per clump. Females can lay up to 750 eggs. The eggs are fertilized externally be the male. These eggs can usually be found on leaf litter or aquatic vegetation in the calmest parts of the creek or a pond. The tadpoles will hatch from one to five weeks later.

pacific_chorus_frog_eggsIt usually takes two months for the metamorphosis from tadpole to frog to occur. While the tadpoles are herbivorous, the frogs are carnivorous. During this transformation, the tadpole stops eating for a short time.

The lifespan of these frogs in captivity can be as long as nine years. In the wilds of our open space, however, their lives can be cut short by raccoons, herons, egrets, snakes and other animals, including man. Our local gopher snakes depend upon the Pacific tree frog for their survival in some instances.

Tamarisk

Tamarisk

Other threats to these frogs are pesticides, runoff that may contain toxic chemicals and fertilizer, leaked sewage, non-native plants that can degrade their riparian habitat, such as tamarisk, which grows rampantly in all of our canyons. Each tamarisk removes an average of 300 gallons of water per day from the ecosystem and has 500,000 seeds per year, per plant. Bullfrogs and snapping turtles also eat our tree frogs and are classified as the 10 most unwanted invasive species.

You might wonder what the tree frogs eat. Their long, sticky tongues are perfect for feasting on flies, beetles, spiders, ants and other invertebrates.

Tree frogs are abundant with no conservation concerns currently. They have a wide range of dispersal from British Columbia to California. They remain abundant in our area, while we see other amphibians such as the red-legged and yellow-legged frogs in our area in decline. (Did you know the red-legged frog was recently named our state amphibian?) The Pacific tree frog is the state amphibian of Washington.

pacific-chorus-frog 2The Community Hiking Club will be leading a hike in Towsley Canyon on Feb. 14 to visit these romantic frogs. If the day is warm, we will hear them long before we see them. From the parking area to the creek, your leader will talk about the frogs and you will be able to ask questions. We will then spend time at the creek listening to the males calling out to the females.

You can look, but not touch. If you bring children, they must be quiet; too much noise will interrupt their calls, and they will be silent until we leave. Once we’ve visited the frogs, you can either return to the parking lot, have a picnic at the picnic area, or continue with your leader to hike the moderately difficult Loop Trail.

Pacific Chorus Frog 2If you have children, please be advised that there is no license available for harvesting tree frogs – or any animal – from the wild. If you are caught taking a tree frog from the wild, you can be prosecuted. So teach your children that it is better to look than to touch, and please don’t bring them home.

If you’d like to come to the hike or frog-viewing, meet your leader at 8 a.m. outside Towsley Canyon in the parking lot for an 8:15 a.m. departure down the trail.

Directions to Towsley meeting spot: From Valencia, take the Interstate 5 south to the Calgrove exit. Exit, turn right. Go through the signal and immediately turn right into the driveway for Towsley Canyon. Park outside the gate. Look for hiking club members and your leader there. Be prompt. We will depart no later than 8:15 a.m.

 

 

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. If you’d like to be part of the solution, join the Community Hiking Club’s Stewardship Committee. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.

 

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4 Comments

  1. There is one somewhere near my Koi pond. I hear it every night. Love it.

  2. There is one somewhere near my Koi pond. I hear it every night. Love it.

  3. Yes I have several that have taken residence in my yard also. I love the Frogs and the Lizards that are around my house, they aren’t afraid of people at all, and since I let them flourish in the yard I haven’t seen as many crickets around either.

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