• The Point Reyes Beach as viewed from the Point Reyes Headlands

    Point Reyes

    National Seashore California

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  • 2014 Harbor Seal Pupping Season Closures

    From March 1 through June 30, the park implements closures of certain Tomales Bay beaches and Drakes Estero to water-based recreation to protect harbor seals during the pupping season. Please avoid disturbing seals to ensure a successful pupping season. More »

  • 2014 Winter Shuttle Bus Operations Have Ended

    March 30, 2014, was the last day for the 2014 Winter Shuttle Bus System. Sir Francis Drake Blvd. is open daily from now through late December 2014. More »

  • Operational Changes Took Effect on May 1, 2013

    The Lighthouse Visitor Center is now only open Fridays through Mondays; closed Tuesdays through Thursdays, including Thanksgiving. The Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center is open on weekends and holidays when shuttles are operating. More »


California Red-legged Frog

California Red-legged Frog

Amphibians are vertebrates (animals with backbones) that spend a part of their life underwater and the remainder living on land. They are ectothermic (more commonly known as "cold-blooded"), meaning that they depend on the temperature of their environment to regulate their own internal temperature. Amphibians are distinguished from reptiles by their absence of scales (although some of them have scales embedded under their skin). Amphibians are further distinguished by those that are voiceless and their larvae have no teeth (salamanders) and those that make noise and whose larvae have teeth (frogs and toads).

At Point Reyes, there are six species of salamanders. The most common include the Rough-skinned newt, the California newt, the slender salamander, Ensatina, and arboreal salamander. Larval California giant salamanders are found in many of the cooler streams in the Olema Valley, but adults are rarely seen except on warm, rainy nights.

There are four species of frogs and toads known from the Seashore, one of which is not native to this area. The bullfrog was introduced into California in the 1800s, and has spread throughout much of the state. The most common frog is the Pacific treefrog, a species that calls in large, loud choruses in the late winter and spring. The California red-legged frog is Federally listed as a threatened species. While populations of this frog are greatly reduced throughout many parts of the state, there are still good-sized populations of this frog at Point Reyes.

Although the number of amphibian species is limited at Point Reyes, the rarity of species is notable. The highest densities of California red-legged frogs, for example, are located in riparian areas of Point Reyes. This species is now federally threatened but was once abundant throughout California and was the species of Mark Twain’s legend of the jumping frog of Calaveras County.

Globally, over 200 amphibian species have experienced recent population declines, with reports of 32 species extinctions. Data from California clearly document not just a decline in frog and toad populations, but extirpation of certain species throughout a significant portion of their range. Some of the reasons for this decline include factors related to the overall biodiversity crisis such as habitat destruction (alteration; fragmentation), introduced species, and overexploitation.

However, these are not the only reasons for declines as they have also declined in relatively ‘pristine’ environments. The more complex and elusive mechanisms potentially underlying declines include climate change, UV-B radiation, chemical contaminants, infectious diseases, deformities, or a combination of any of these factors that may exacerbate negative conditions. Researchers are finding that there is not a single overarching cause for global declines; instead all of these factors are threatening amphibian populations to a greater or lesser extent.

View Amphibians of Point Reyes National Seashore species list (15 KB PDF, Adobe® Acrobat Reader® required).

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