Meet Mark Twain’s frog at Mori Point

October 8, 2012

The California red-legged frog, a.k.a Mark Twain’s frog, may be the largest-sized frog in the West, but it’s numbers have shrunk to paltry sum. They now inhabit a smattering of select coastal ranges from Mendocino County to Baja California.

One of those spots is Mori Point, a sliver of land to the north of Pacifica that juts out into the ocean. The salt-sprayed property is part of the federal Golden Gate National Restoration Area and restoration efforts have helped keep the species alive, along with its endangered predator, the San Francisco garter snake.

The frogs have been central to the long standing debate over Sharp Park Golf Course to the north, where environmentalists contend that management of the range is destroying frog eggs. Wild Equity Institute has been trying to build public support for the endangered frogs (with the aim to shut down the golf course and turn the land into a park) and recently led a tour of prime Mori Point frog habitat.

Building public awareness of California red-leggeds is a funny thing. Back in the day the hefty sized frogs, which reach bigger than 5 inches in length, used to be a familiar item on the menus of San Francisco’s finest dining establishments, and were a staple diet of the Forty-Niners during the Gold Rush. They were also competitive athletes in jumping frog races, and became a literary sensation in Mark Twain’s short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

Now it’s habitat destruction that’s doing in this charismatic amphibian.

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Christine Kelly is a Bay Nature editorial intern. 

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