Harborton Frog Shuttle Provides Safe Transport for Imperiled Amphibians
It’s a rainy winter evening in the City of Roses, and the area’s largest population of northern red-legged frogs is on the move.
They’re hopping down from Forest Park in Portland, Ore., where they live most of the time, to Harborton wetlands in Portland, Ore., their seasonal breeding grounds. The journey requires crossing two roads, a four-lane highway, and two railroad tracks.
“It’s like that old video game Frogger,” said Philip Fensterer, a marine-life keeper at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Ore., by day and a volunteer ‘frog transportation specialist’ by night. “In order to survive, these frogs need to make it across the road without getting hit by vehicles—and at rush hour, that’s no easy feat.”
The peak period for this dangerous journey is during rainy evenings in winter and spring when the temperature’s 45 degrees or higher. On these occasions, Fensterer and fellow Oregon Zoo keeper Amber Valdez don rain gear and head out to join a crew assisting with the Harborton Frog Shuttle, also known as the “Frog Taxi.”
Volunteers spread out, scanning the roadside and nabbing the amphibians as they approach. The frogs are then safely transported to their wetlands destination, counted, and released. After mating and laying eggs, the frogs head back uphill and catch another cab home to Forest Park.
Northern red-legged frogs are considered a federal species of concern and are protected in Oregon. The Forest Park frogs are Portland’s last significant population, but conservationists are optimistic. This year, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Wildlife Foundation, and other partners are collaborating on a study to determine whether an underpass can be built below the highway for safe frog passage. In addition to Oregon Wildlife Foundation, Harborton Frog Shuttle is made possible by the West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District.
Research on the Harborton frog crossing was one of several projects supported by donors to the Oregon Zoo Foundation through the Oregon Conservation and Recreation Fund, which finances efforts that help implement the Oregon Conservation Strategy and invests in outdoor recreation opportunities that connect Oregonians to the natural world and increase equity for underserved communities.
“Creating a brighter future for these frogs is a team effort, and this project is an inspiring example of what we can achieve when we work together,” said Julie Fitzgerald, executive director of the Oregon Zoo Foundation. “Our members and supporters are key to conservation efforts such as this, helping make our state a better place for wildlife, people, and the habitats we all depend on.”
Photos Credit: © Oregon Zoo
Edited by Sarah Gilsoul, a writer and communications program assistant at AZA.
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