Oregon Spotted Frog

Greater Vancouver Zoo’s Oregon Spotted Frog Recovery Program receives the Colonel G.D. Dailley Award

CANADIAN ACCREDITED FACILITY AWARDED INDUSTRY AWARD OF EXECELLENCE

October 7, 2021

This award recognizes achievement in ex-situ propagation and management programs that contribute to the long-term survival of animal species or populations. The successful applicant will demonstrate a significant institutional commitment to propagation or management programs that produce multiple or single births that have a positive impact on the sustainability of the species or population.

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The ex-situ program was initiated in conjunction with the Oregon Spotted Frog Recovery Team with two main objectives at its inception. Firstly, and most importantly, during the early years of the program and species assessment, the program provided an assurance population for eggs collected from the wild to ensure an entire years breeding efforts were not lost due to stochastic weather events. Secondly, as the program developed the value of rearing animals for head starting was more thoroughly understood and head-starting animals for release became the focus of efforts. This strategy was the key recovery action for the ex-situ program for many years. Modeling revealed that the most efficient effort, for both cost and results, would be to focus effort on captive breeding to produce significant animals at the tadpole stage for release to establish new populations. Captive breeding efforts which had previously been the focus on the Vancouver Aquarium with marginal success alongside ex-situ smaller scale colony breeding at GVZoo. Considering the shift to focus more resources on captive breeding, efforts were expanded with the formation of a captive breeding specialist group combining the efforts of all institutions breeding or rearing OSF and Northern Leopard frog in order to combine our knowledge. Effort began within the GVZoo ex-situ program to gradually shifting the focus to these captive breeding efforts and to spend significant effort in “cracking” the secret for breeding this species ex-situ. In 2021 changing husbandry practices helped the GVZoo head starting program increase production of tadpoles from captive breeding tenfold.

The Oregon Spotted frog has been the target of significant conservation effort since 1999 when it was emergency red listed as endangered under the Canadian Species at Risk Act. At this time, it had only 3 remaining breeding populations in the Fraser Valley with an estimated fewer than 400 individuals. Recovery of this species has involved many different conservation actions, surveys, population monitoring, landowner contact, public education, habitat restoration and the focus of this writing ex-situ management. Within the umbrella of ex-situ management, the focus of the conservation efforts for this species have also changed over time. Facilities run by Wildlife Preservation Canada at Greater Vancouver Zoo (GVZ) began to build a program for captive breeding, having previously focused entirely on head starting. While other partners focused on specific pairing of animals producing trackable genetics through offspring, the GVZ program would focus on larger scale group breeding in naturalized enclosures. Overall, the timing, behaviour, egg laying pattern and fertility success in 2021 was drastically improved and much more reminiscent of that which is observed in the wild. Total tadpole production went from an average of 1600 a year for the past three years to over 20,000.