Amphibians and Fish

Mountain yellow-legged frog in water
Mountain yellow-legged frogs are federally listed as endangered. They are threatened by non-native fish and disease. Recovery efforts are underway to restore some populations of these iconic high Sierra amphibians.

Photo by: © Isaac Chellman

Amphibians and fish occur at all elevations within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. You may see some species only seasonally while others may be found at all times of the year. Their occurrence ranges from common (Pacific treefrogs) to extirpated, or locally extinct (foothill yellow-legged frogs).

Mountain Yellow-legged Frogs and Nonnative Fish

From 1870 to 1988, nonnative trout were introduced to high-elevation lakes and streams to make these areas more attractive to anglers. The introduction of fish has had many unintended effects - the most dramatic being the resulting decline in mountain yellow-legged frog populations due to fish predation of frogs and tadpoles and the insects they feed on. Although once lumped together as a single species, mountain yellow-legged frogs have been split into the southern mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa) and the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierra). Both species occur within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and have disappeared from most of their native range. In 2014, they were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Although the introduction of trout into frog habitat is still considered a major cause of historic and current declines, the recent epidemic of amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) has resulted in a another wave of population crashes, and appears to be the primary threat to the remaining populations of frogs occupying fishless habitat.

Visit the Giving Mountain Yellow-legged Frogs a Fighting Chance page to learn more about efforts to restore populations of these frogs to some of the parks' lakes and watch a short video about this project.

 
California newt. Photo by Tony Caprio
Newts are active in and near foothill streams in the winter and spring. Their bright color, plodding walk, and interesting mating and feeding behaviors in streams makes them a fun animal to watch and photograph.

Photo by Tony Caprio

Other Amphibians
In addition to the two endangered species of mountain yellow-legged frogs and the extirpated foothill yellow-legged frog, eleven other amphibian species live in these parks. They include:
  • American bullfrog (nonnative)
  • Northern Pacific treefrog
  • Western toad
  • Yosemite toad (listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act)
  • Two species of newts (Sierra and California)
  • Mount Lyell salamander
  • Ensatina
  • Three slender salamander species (Gregarious,Sequoia, and Kings River)

Many species of amphibians have a limited distribution and thus are vulnerable to disturbance or changing conditions. Slender salamanders, for example, live in specific habitats small in extent, and there may not be comparable places for them to expand their range if warming climate or disturbance such as severe wildfire cause significant changes.

 
Rainbow trout. Photo by: Andy Harrison.
Rainbow trout

Photo: © Andy Harrison

Fish

Historically, native fish species lived only in the lower elevation reaches of the Kaweah, Kern, and Kings Rivers, typically below 6,000 ft (1,800 m) in elevation. As a result of the introductions of nonnative fish into high-elevation lakes, 550 of the parks' 3,500 previously fishless lakes, ponds, and marshes have self-sustaining populations of trout. Although trout are being removed from a subset of these lakes to restore the native yellow-legged frogs, hundreds of lakes will continue to support trout and provide recreational angling opportunities.

Following are the native species of fish documented for the parks:

  • Little Kern golden trout (listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act)
  • Kern River rainbow trout
  • Rainbow trout
  • California roach
  • Sacramento sucker

An additional six species of nonnative fish occur in the parks, the three most common being California golden trout, brook trout, and brown trout.

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

47050 Generals Highway
Three Rivers, CA 93271

Phone:

(559) 565-3341
Recorded information is available 24 hours a day. Park staff answers calls on weekdays from 8:15 am - 4:15 pm.

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