Tales From The Trails:

Forest Park Froggers

Starting in January, armies of frogs (yes, that’s the technical term) mobilize from their upland territory in Forest Park down to their wetland breeding grounds below Highway 30. These northern red-legged frogs are a state-listed species of concern who must risk their lives for a chance to breed. If they are lucky enough to make it safely across the highway to the wetlands, many of the frogs then try to return home to Forest Park the same way they came. Once again, they move under the shadow of night, hopping across the highway, hoping not to get hit. Now, a dedicated group of concerned residents is helping these frogs cross the road, and you can help.

Linnton residents witnessed the migration that resulted in many frogs dying on Highway 30 and decided to take action. In January 2014, community members with support from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the City of Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services, West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Forest Park Conservancy, launched a volunteer effort to taxi the frogs safely across the highway. In the first year of the frog shuttle, volunteers transported 650 frogs from the edge of Forest Park to the wetlands below Marina Way. They also helped about half as many frogs make their way back up the hill to Forest Park, after the breeding business was through.

How does the shuttle work?

On nights when weather conditions are just right for a migration, one or two volunteers stand guard at the border of Forest Park and watch for signs of movement. Should the frogs emerge from the forest and into the street, reinforcement volunteers are called in to help catch the hoppers. Frogs are carefully caught, placed in five-gallon buckets, and loaded into cars with express service to the wetlands.

While the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Department of Transportation are brainstorming possible long-term solutions for the frog crossing, this year’s community-led shuttle service is already underway.

On Saturday, January 17, frogs hopped into the streets in record-breaking numbers. On that night, volunteers shuttled a total of 455 frogs to safety, 13 of which had already laid their eggs and were heading uphill in the direction of Forest Park. Ten days later, 151 females boarded the shuttle bound for Forest Park after having successfully deposited their eggs.

Currently, the frog shuttle has about 44 active volunteers, and from now through late-March you can sign up to help out. According to volunteer coordinator Jane Hartline, the male frogs tend to stick around the wetlands longer to guard the eggs and perhaps give mating another go. At this point, volunteers are still needed to help some slow to roll females down to the breeding grounds, and help transport the lingering males home to Forest Park.

For more information about how you can get involved, check out this frog shuttle fact sheet and contact volunteer coordinator Jane Hartline at sauviehabitats@gmail.com with your interest.

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