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Recovery Strategy for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Ascaphus montanus) in Canada - 2015 [Proposed]

Species at Risk Act
Recovery Strategy Series
Adopted under Section 44 of SARA

Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog

Cover page of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog

2015

Recommended citation

Environment Canada. 2015. Recovery Strategy for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Ascaphus montanus) in Canada [Proposed]. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Environment Canada, Ottawa. 20 pp. + Annex.

For copies of the recovery strategy, or for additional information on species at risk, including COSEWIC Status Reports, residence descriptions, action plans, and other related recovery documents, please visit the SAR Public Registry.

Cover illustration: Purnima Govindarajulu

Également disponible en français sous le titre
« Programme de rétablissement de la grenouille-à-queue des Rocheuses (Ascaphus montanus) au Canada - 2015 [Proposition] »

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of the Environment, 2015. All rights reserved.
ISBN
Catalogue no.

Content (excluding the illustrations) may be used without permission, with appropriate credit to the source.

Recovery Strategy for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Ascaphus montanus) in Canada - 2015

Under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk (1996), the federal, provincial, and territorial governments agreed to work together on legislation, programs, and policies to protect wildlife species at risk throughout Canada.

In the spirit of cooperation of the Accord, the Government of British Columbia has given permission to the Government of Canada to adopt the Recovery Plan for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Ascaphus montanus) in British Columbia (Part 2) under Section 44 of the Species at Risk Act. Environment Canada has included an addition which completes the SARA requirements for this recovery strategy.

The federal recovery strategy for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in Canada consists of two parts:

Part 1 – Federal Addition to the Recovery Plan for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Ascaphus montanus) in British Columbia, prepared by Environment Canada.

Part 2 - Recovery Plan for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Ascaphus montanus) in British Columbia, prepared by British Columbia Ministry of Environment.

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Part 1 – Federal Addition to the Recovery Plan for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Ascaphus montanus) in British Columbia, prepared by Environment Canada


Preface

The federal, provincial, and territorial government signatories under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk (1996) agreed to establish complementary legislation and programs that provide for effective protection of species at risk throughout Canada. Under the Species at Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c.29) (SARA), the federal competent ministers are responsible for the preparation of recovery strategies for listed Extirpated, Endangered, and Threatened species and are required to report on progress five years after the publication of the final document on the SAR Public Registry.

The Minister of the Environment is the competent minister for the recovery of the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog and has prepared the federal component of this recovery strategy (Part 1), as per section 37 of SARA. It has been prepared in cooperation with the Province of British Columbia (B.C.).  SARA section 44 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub-sections 41(1) or (2)). The Province of British Columbia provided the attached recovery plan for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Part 2) as science advice to the jurisdictions responsible for managing the species in British Columbia. It was prepared in cooperation with Environment Canada.

Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this strategy and will not be achieved by Environment Canada, or any other jurisdiction alone. All Canadians are invited to join in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog and Canadian society as a whole.

This recovery strategy will be followed by one or more action plans that will provide information on recovery measures to be taken by Environment Canada and other jurisdictions and/or organizations involved in the conservation of the species. Implementation of this strategy is subject to appropriations, priorities, and budgetary constraints of the participating jurisdictions and organizations.

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Additions and Modifications to the Adopted Document

The following sections have been included to address specific requirements of SARA that are not addressed in the Recovery Plan for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Ascaphus montanus) in British Columbia (Part 2 of this document, referred to henceforth as "the provincial recovery plan") and to provide updated or additional information.

Under SARA, there are specific requirements and processes set out regarding the protection of critical habitat. Therefore, statements in the provincial recovery plan referring to protection of survival/recovery habitat may not directly correspond to federal requirements, and are not being adopted by Environment Canada as part of the federal recovery strategy. Whether particular measures or actions will result in protection of critical habitat under SARA will be assessed following publication of the federal recovery strategy.

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1. Critical Habitat

1.1 Identification of the Species’ Critical Habitat

Section 41 (1)(c) of SARA requires that recovery strategies include an identification of the species’ critical habitat, to the extent possible, as well as examples of activities that are likely to result in its destruction. Section 7.1.1 of the provincial recovery plan for this species describes biophysical attributes that are required by Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog. Environment Canada accepts the description of biophysical attributes as stated in the provincial recovery plan as the definition of biophysical attributes that comprise the critical habitat identification in the federal recovery strategy. The following text replaces section 7.1.2 of the provincial recovery plan, which describes the geospatial area containing survival/recovery habitat.

Critical habitat for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog is identified for all habitable stream reaches and the associated riparian habitat within the species’ known range in Canada as outlined by Figure 4 (A,B) in the provincial recovery plan, that meet the biophysical attributes described in section 7.1.1 in the provincial recovery plan. More precise or refined boundaries may be mapped, and/or additional critical habitat may be added in the future if ongoing research (e.g. through work by the province, stewardship and recovery groups, university projects, or related federal Interdepartmental Recovery Fund projects) supports the inclusion of areas beyond those identified in this document. A primary consideration in the identification of critical habitat is the amount, quality, and locations of habitat needed to achieve the population and distribution objectives. Detailed methods and decision-making processes relating to critical habitat identification are archived in a supporting document; these methods are summarized below.

The precautionary approach of applying the identification to all habitable stream reaches within the species’ known range is considered appropriate considering the high likelihood of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog being present in suitable habitat within this range. Current data (e.g. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks unpubl. data 2013) suggests that Rocky Mountain Frog has a greater distribution within this area than previous sampling/sighting records have shown. Further, visual searches that have been used to detect Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog are not considered to be as accurate as other methods such as electroshocking (Cossel et. al 2012) and eDNA sampling, therefore false negative searches within the area are likely. Another factor influencing the approach to critical habitat identification is recognition that the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog adults may move to colonize neighbouring streams, and that tadpoles in particular may be swept downstream from known inhabited reaches and persist in those lower reaches (i.e. distribution is not necessarily fixed to past stream sighting/confirmed location).

The species’ known range is defined as the boundaries established by inventory efforts. Stream reaches were delineated using 1:20,000 scale maps (source: Government of British Columbia). The downstream limit of each stream reach was estimated; in most cases, these occur at confluences with larger reaches. Streams reaches that were deemed too cold to support Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog were excluded (data source: Dupuis and Friele 2004; see Dupuis and Friele 2005 Figure 7); Brown (1975) found that eggs only develop above 5oC, and Dupuis and Friele (2006) implied that creeks reaching less than or equal to 8.5oC by the afternoon in late summer have too short a growing season to support viable breeding. Riparian habitats were delineated using a 50 m critical function zoneFootnote1 on either side of the centre of each stream (total critical function zone width = 100 m). A 50 m radius was added to the ends of reaches.

All habitable stream reaches were used to ensure dispersal opportunities between streams are maintained; this is known to be important for gene transfer. Under natural disturbance regimes (wildfire), this movement is thought to take place via older forest stands that persist in patches of forest skipped by wildfire (Spear and Storfer 2010). However, Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog range in Canada is dominated by industrial forest management activities with extensive logging activity in the upland forest matrix between inhabited stream reaches. Under these conditions, Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog has been shown to be more reliant on intact riparian zone habitats with very little occurrence in the drier upland forests (Spear and Storfer 2010).

The 50 m critical function zone was deemed reasonable to capture the majority of the riparian zone immediately adjacent to inhabited streams. These areas are essential to Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog. Ascaphus frogs are more susceptible to desiccation than any other anuran in North America (Claussen 1973; Brown 1975). The relatively dry upland forest beyond the riparian zone can be too harsh for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs. Removal of riparian vegetation is well documented to increase stream temperature (Bury 2008; see reviews in Hauer et al. 2007 and Olson et al. 2007).

Riparian zones are not linear, but vary in width based on soils, terrain (slopes), aspect and other factors. However, detailed mapping of these zones is marginal. The best representation is Predictive Ecosystem Mapping (PEM) but this tool was deemed unsuitable, in part because it doesn’t account for slope. Steep side-sloped reaches in PEM significantly underestimate the width of riparian buffer and would not offer sufficient suitable habitat. The 50 m critical function zone on each side is irrespective of slope and should capture the majority of riparian habitats used by Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog. This width is consistent with other habitat protection measures for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Province of British Columbia 2005a; 2005b) and is toward the upper range of riparian buffer widths considered for conservation elsewhere (see Table 5 in Olson et al. 2007).

The total area within which critical habitat is found is 4464.8 ha, as shown by the detailed (yellow) polygons on Figure 1 and Figure 2 (see also Appendix A). The 1 km x 1 km UTM (red) grid overlay shown on these figures is a standardized national grid system that indicates the general geographic area containing critical habitat, for land use planning and/or environmental assessment purposes. Critical habitat can only be partially identified at this time.  New records of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog that expand the species range in Canada have been reported for the Flathead River watershed (Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks unpubl. data 2013). A schedule of studies has been included to provide the information necessary to complete the identification of critical habitat.  The identification of critical habitat will be updated when the information becomes available, either in a revised recovery strategy or action plan(s).

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Figure 1: Critical habitat for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in the Flathead River watershed is represented by the yellow shaded polygons (units), where the the biophysical attributes described in section 7.1.1 in the provincial recovery plan are met. The 1 km x 1 km UTM grid overlay shown on this figure is a standardized national grid system that indicates the general geographic area within which critical habitat is found in Canada; USA landbase (shaded grey) is excluded.
Critical habitat for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (see long description below)
Long description for Figure 1

Figure 1 shows the grid squares for the species' critical habitat in East Kootenay, BC for the Flathead population. These grid squares follow rivers which make up the Flathead River watershed. These rivers in turn are themselves the detailed units, or polygons, within which critical habitat is found.

 

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Figure 2: Critical habitat for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in the Yahk River watershed is represented by the yellow shaded polygons (units), where the the biophysical attributes described in section 7.1.1 in the provincial recovery plan are met. The 1 km x 1 km UTM grid overlay shown on this figure is a standardized national grid system that indicates the general geographic area within which critical habitat is found in Canada; USA landbase (shaded grey) is excluded.
Critical habitat for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (see long description below)
Long description for Figure 2

Figure 2 shows the grid squares for the species' critical habitat in East Kootenay, BC for the Yahk population. These grid squares follow rivers which make up the Yahk River watershed. These rivers in turn are themselves the detailed units, or polygons, within which critical habitat is found.

 

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1.2 Schedule of Studies to Identify Critical Habitat

The following text replaces section 7.2 of the provincial recovery plan.

Sightings of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog that expand the species range in Canada have been reported for the Flathead River watershed (Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks unpubl. data 2013). These reports require verification such that all critical habitat for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog is identified. Stream reaches where Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog is confirmed should be added as critical habitat following the methodology outlined in section 1.1. The suggested time frame for collecting this information and completing the critical habitat identification is 2014 – 2019 (i.e., 5 years).

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1.3 Activities Likely to Result in the Destruction of Critical Habitat

Understanding what constitutes destruction of critical habitat is necessary for the protection and management of critical habitat. Destruction is determined on a case by case basis. Destruction would result if part of the critical habitat were degraded, either permanently or temporarily, such that it would not serve its function when needed by the species. Destruction may result from a single or multiple activities at one point in time or from the cumulative effects of one or more activities over time. The provincial recovery plan provides a detailed description of limitations and potential threats to Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog. Activities described in Table 1 include those likely to cause destruction of critical habitat for the species; destructive activities are not limited to those listed.

Table 1. Examples of activities likely to result in destruction of critical habitat for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog. IUCN Threat numbers are in accordance with the IUCN-CMP (World Conservation Union–Conservation Measures Partnership) unified threats classification system (CMP 2010).
Description of ActivityDescription of EffectAdditional Information
Forest harvest in riparian zoneLoss of riparian forest cover alters hydrological regime and increases stream temperature, and may cause increased sediment input into streams. These effects can cause direct or indirect loss of critical habitat.Related IUCN-CMP Threat # 5.3; 9.3; Area- or site – level threat, occurring inside or outside the bounds of CH; effects can be direct and/or cumulative
Forest harvest in upland zoneLogging surrounding upland forests can alter hydrological regimes such that critical habitat is destroyed.Related IUCN-CMP Threat # 5.3; 9.3; Area- or site- level threat, occurring inside or outside the bounds of CH; effects can be direct and/or cumulative
Mining activitiesLoss of riparian forest cover alters hydrological regime and increases stream temperature, and may cause increased sediment input into streams. Removal of surrounding upland forests can also alter hydrological regimes. Effluents may pollute streams such that critical habitat is destroyed.Related IUCN-CMP Threat # 3.1; 3.2; 9.3; may occur inside or outside the bounds of critical habitat to cause destruction; direct and/or indirect loss, effects can be cumulative
Road ConstructionNew roads remove riparian habitat at stream crossings, increase sediment inputs into stream, alter hydrological regime, flow rates, water temperature.Related IUCN-CMP Threat # 4.1; 9.3; may occur inside or outside the bounds of critical habitat to cause destruction; direct and/or indirect loss, effects can be cumulative
Improper road maintenancePoorly maintained current roads increase sediment inputs into stream, alter hydrological regime, flow rates, water temperature.Related IUCN-CMP Threat # 4.1; 9.3; may occur inside or outside the bounds of critical habitat to cause destruction; indirect loss, effects can be cumulative
Installation and use of  hydroelectric generation in streamHydroelectric generation in stream would increase sediment inputs into stream, alter hydrological regime, flow rates, water temperature.Related IUCN-CMP Threat # 3.3; 9.3; may occur inside or outside the bounds of critical habitat to cause destruction; direct and/or indirect loss, effects can be cumulative
Inappropriate livestock management (e.g., allowing livestock in stream and riparian areas)Trampling by ranging livestock will increase sedimentation, reduce riparian vegetation (leading to altered hydrological regimes and raised water temperature) and pollute waterways.Related IUCN-CMP Threat # 2.3; 9.3; may occur inside or outside the bounds of critical habitat to cause destruction; direct and/or indirect loss, effects can be cumulative
Sump installation and use in streamsInstallation of sump pumps to draw water, usually for fire fighting purposes will reduce water volume, disturb riparian cover (leading to altered hydrological regimes and raised water temperature), increase sedimentation.Related IUCN-CMP Threat # 7.1; 9.3; may occur inside or outside the bounds of critical habitat to cause destruction; direct and/or indirect loss, effects can be cumulative
Use of off-road motorized vehicles outside of established trails and roadsMotorized vehicles operating off-road in the riparian zone and/or the waterway will reduce riparian vegetation (leading to altered hydrological regimes and raised water temperature) and pollute waterways.Related IUCN-CMP Threat # 6.1; 9.3; may occur inside or outside the bounds of critical habitat to cause destruction; direct and/or indirect loss, effects can be cumulative
Long description for Table 1 - Part 1

Table 1 lists 9 activities that are likely to destroy critical habitat for the species along with the description of the effect and additional information.

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2. Statement on Action Plans

An action plan for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog will be posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry by 2019.

3. Effects on the Environment and Other Species

A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is conducted on all SARA recovery planning documents, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision-making and to evaluate whether the outcomes of a recovery planning document could affect any component of the environment or any of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy's [FSDS] goals and targets.

Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts upon non-target species or habitats. The results of the SEA are incorporated directly into the strategy itself, but are also summarized below in this statement.

The provincial recovery plan for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog contains a section describing the effects of recovery activities on other species (i.e., Section 9). Environment Canada adopts this section of the provincial recovery plan as the statement on effects of recovery activities on the environment and other species.

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4. References

  • Brown, H.A. 1975. Temperature and development of the tailed frog, Ascaphus truei. Comp. Biochem. Physiol.  50:397-405.

  • Bury, R. B. 2008. Low thermal tolerances of stream amphibians in the Pacific Northwest: implications for riparian and forest management. Appl. Herp. 5: 63-74.

  • Claussen, D.L.  1973. The water relations of the tailed frog, Ascaphus truei and the Pacific treefrog, Hyla regilla. Comp. Biochem. Physiol.  44A:155-171.

  • Cossel, J.O., M.G. Gaige and J.D. Sauder. 2012. Electroshocking as a Survey Technique for Stream-Dwelling Amphibians. Wildl. Soc. Bull. 36:358–364.

  • Dupuis, L. and P. Friele 2004. Survey for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Ascaphus montanus) in Dominion Coal Blocks, Contract 23145-05-0050090. Final Report for Arthur Robinson, Natural Resources Canada, 506 West Burnside Road, Victoria, BC.

  • Dupuis, L., and P. Friele. 2005.  Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog Conservation Analysis.  Final report to BC Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, and BC Ministry of Forests. Victoria, B.C.

  • Dupuis, L. and P. Friele. 2006.  Post-fire assessment of tailed frog abundance in Storm and Leslie Creeks, following the 2003 Ram-Cabin Fire.  Report to Biodiversity Branch, BC Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, Victoria, BC.  12pp.

  • Government of Canada. 2009. Species at Risk Act policies, overarching policy framework (PDF version, 38 pp.) – draft. Min. Environ., Ottawa, ON. [Accessed January, 2013]

  • Hauer, F.R., J.A. Stanford and M.S. Lorang. 2007. Pattern and process in northern Rocky Mountain headwaters: ecological linkages in the headwaters of the Crown of the Continent. J. Am. Water Resour. Assoc. 43:104-117.

  • Olson, D.H., P.D. Anderson, C.A. Frissell, H.H. Welsh Jr, and D.F. Bradford. 2007. Biodiversity management approaches for stream–riparian areas: perspectives for Pacific Northwest headwater forests, microclimates, and amphibians. For Ecol Manage. 246:81-107.

  • Province of British Columbia. 2005a. Order: Wildlife Habitat Areas #4-046 – 4-055. B.C. Min. Environ., Victoria, BC [Accessed February, 2013]

  • Province of British Columbia. 2005b. Order: Wildlife Habitat Areas #4-056 – 4-064. B.C. Min. Environ., Victoria, BC [Accessed February, 2013]

  • Spear S.F. and A. Storfer. 2010. Anthropogenic and natural disturbance lead to differing patterns of gene flow in the Rocky Mountain tailed frog, Ascaphus montanus. Biol. Conserv. 143:778–786.

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Appendix A: Table of UTM grids encompassing Critical Habitat.

Table A1: List of 1 km x 1 km UTM grid squares (generated by the standardized national grid system) that indicates the general geographic areas containing critical habitat for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in Canada.
Grid NumberEastingNotea of Table 1aNorthingNotea of Table 1bCH Area (ha)Noteb of Table 2 within GridLand TenureNotec of Table 3
159300054530002.20Provincial
2593000545200017.98Provincial
359400054520002.00Provincial
459200054510001.06Provincial
5593000545100028.61Provincial
6594000545100015.57Provincial
759500054510000.01Provincial
859200054500005.02Provincial
9593000545000039.96Provincial
1059400054500002.75Provincial
1166400054500003.77Provincial
1266500054500006.74Provincial
1366600054500003.68Provincial
14592000544900025.71Provincial
15593000544900032.77Provincial
1659400054490004.99Provincial
1766400054490000.37Provincial
18665000544900018.17Provincial
19666000544900010.13Provincial
20667000544900011.45Provincial
21668000544900015.88Provincial
22669000544900011.09Provincial, Private
2358900054480000.54Provincial
2459000054480004.29Provincial
2559100054480007.69Provincial
26592000544800023.02Provincial
27593000544800031.24Provincial
28594000544800012.75Provincial
2966300054480000.15Provincial
30664000544800010.45Provincial
31665000544800013.08Provincial
32666000544800020.70Provincial
33667000544800018.41Provincial
34668000544800020.14Provincial
35669000544800014.35Provincial
3667200054480000.04Provincial
3758800054470000.04Provincial
38589000544700018.11Provincial
39590000544700013.43Provincial
40591000544700014.29Provincial
41592000544700029.16Provincial
42593000544700015.51Provincial
4359400054470006.79Provincial
4466200054470003.50Provincial
45663000544700010.76Provincial
4666400054470000.49Provincial
47665000544700019.32Provincial
48666000544700032.19Provincial
49667000544700021.48Provincial
50668000544700022.06Provincial
51669000544700021.36Provincial
52670000544700022.76Provincial
53671000544700020.88Provincial
5467200054470008.96Provincial
55673000544700010.92Provincial
5667400054470001.88Provincial
57588000544600036.96Provincial
58589000544600015.22Provincial
59590000544600019.94Provincial
6059100054460003.99Provincial
61592000544600027.18Provincial
62593000544600024.44Provincial
63594000544600011.73Provincial
64666000544600035.21Provincial
65667000544600037.31Provincial
6666800054460004.96Provincial
6766900054460007.92Provincial
68670000544600020.05Provincial
6967100054460006.34Provincial
70672000544600012.54Provincial
71673000544600020.38Provincial
72674000544600012.96Provincial
7367500054460003.82Provincial
7467600054460004.93Provincial
7558600054450002.28Provincial
76587000544500011.62Provincial
77588000544500015.94Provincial
78589000544500011.26Provincial
79590000544500021.65Provincial
8059100054450007.15Provincial
81592000544500037.03Provincial
8259300054450005.32Provincial
8359400054450000.88Provincial
8466600054450002.94Provincial
85667000544500028.46Provincial
86668000544500032.50Provincial
87669000544500019.26Provincial
88670000544500025.56Provincial
89671000544500015.13Provincial
9067200054450009.85Provincial
9167300054450008.67Provincial
9267400054450009.88Provincial
93675000544500015.42Provincial
9458600054440009.73Provincial
95587000544400036.34Provincial
96588000544400017.29Provincial
9758900054440001.64Provincial
98590000544400022.37Provincial
99591000544400012.59Provincial
100592000544400029.85Provincial
101593000544400021.91Provincial
10259400054440002.16Provincial
10366600054440005.75Provincial
104667000544400017.82Provincial
105668000544400016.40Provincial
10666900054440001.22Provincial
107670000544400011.75Provincial
108671000544400029.78Provincial
10967300054440005.71Provincial
11067400054440009.07Provincial
11167500054440000.58Provincial
112586000544300025.63Provincial
113587000544300014.08Provincial
114588000544300010.72Provincial
115589000544300014.45Provincial
116590000544300018.41Provincial
117591000544300039.34Provincial
118592000544300010.70Provincial
119593000544300019.78Provincial
120594000544300018.40Provincial
12166400054430003.53Provincial
122665000544300024.81Provincial
12366600054430006.23Provincial
124667000544300020.70Provincial
12566800054430007.73Provincial
126669000544300013.54Provincial
12767000054430004.68Provincial
128671000544300024.96Provincial
129672000544300013.09Provincial
13067300054430009.27Provincial
131674000544300024.69Provincial
13267500054430003.91Provincial
13358600054420002.56Provincial
134587000544200023.07Provincial
135588000544200013.84Provincial
136589000544200024.01Provincial
137590000544200022.49Provincial
138591000544200028.06Provincial
139592000544200014.04Provincial
14059300054420009.20Provincial
14159400054420003.57Provincial
14266400054420000.01Provincial
143665000544200017.85Provincial
144666000544200026.56Provincial
145667000544200029.83Provincial
146668000544200027.31Provincial
147669000544200034.86Provincial
148670000544200011.05Provincial
149671000544200023.68Provincial
150672000544200026.65Provincial
15167300054420004.75Provincial
152674000544200019.49Provincial
153675000544200015.80Provincial
154676000544200010.66Provincial
155677000544200017.38Provincial
156678000544200011.02Provincial
157679000544200013.73Provincial
15858500054410000.06Provincial
159586000544100018.72Provincial
16058700054410001.39Provincial
161588000544100014.36Provincial
16258900054410009.61Provincial
163591000544100023.75Provincial
164592000544100023.20Provincial
165593000544100011.61Provincial
16659400054410001.70Provincial
16766500054410009.80Provincial
16866600054410008.10Provincial
169667000544100021.16Provincial
17066800054410009.07Provincial
171669000544100023.11Provincial
172670000544100016.47Provincial
17367100054410005.26Provincial
174672000544100023.41Provincial
175673000544100012.01Provincial
176674000544100013.64Provincial
177675000544100020.63Provincial
178676000544100020.62Provincial
179677000544100036.27Provincial
180679000544100014.99Provincial
18158600054400001.75Provincial
182587000544000010.05Provincial
183588000544000029.73Provincial
184589000544000027.45Provincial
18559000054400003.73Provincial
186591000544000029.89Provincial
18759200054400000.11Provincial
188593000544000015.97Provincial
189594000544000023.66Provincial
19066500054400000.78Provincial
191666000544000011.60Provincial
192667000544000010.25Provincial
193668000544000017.11Provincial
194669000544000015.95Provincial
19567000054400006.64Provincial
196671000544000023.65Provincial
19767200054400003.87Provincial
198674000544000015.05Provincial
19967500054400008.21Provincial
200676000544000018.96Provincial
201677000544000022.71Provincial
202678000544000011.15Provincial
203679000544000012.55Provincial
20458500054390000.49Provincial
205586000543900014.15Provincial
20658700054390004.46Provincial
20758800054390005.96Provincial
20858900054390008.16Provincial
209590000543900023.23Provincial
210591000543900023.71Provincial
211593000543900025.50Provincial
212594000543900011.95Provincial
21366700054390006.61Provincial
21466800054390005.47Provincial
21567000054390007.39Provincial
216671000543900014.17Provincial
21767200054390006.39Provincial
21867400054390005.75Provincial
21967500054390001.14Provincial
22067600054390000.01Provincial
22158500054380004.01Provincial
222586000543800012.95Provincial
223587000543800017.35Provincial
224588000543800010.69Provincial
225589000543800010.83Provincial
226590000543800018.46Provincial
227591000543800010.45Provincial
228592000543800015.84Provincial
22959300054380008.42Provincial
23059400054380007.66Provincial
231671000543800011.74Provincial
232672000543800011.67Provincial
233674000543800017.66Provincial
23467500054380009.93Provincial
23567600054380000.05Provincial
23658600054370001.34Provincial
23758700054370002.70Provincial
23858800054370002.14Provincial
239589000543700013.25Provincial
24059000054370004.36Provincial
24159100054370000.31Provincial
242592000543700011.56Provincial
243672000543700012.68Provincial
244673000543700025.02Provincial
245674000543700019.71Provincial
246675000543700019.20Provincial
24767600054370002.21Provincial
24858800054360000.66Provincial
249589000543600016.74Provincial
25059000054360007.72Provincial
251591000543600019.45Provincial
252592000543600011.06Provincial
25366600054360002.35Provincial
254672000543600010.10Provincial
255673000543600012.46Provincial
25667400054360009.65Provincial
257675000543600022.41Provincial
258676000543600013.18Provincial
25967700054360009.01Provincial
26067800054360005.08Provincial
26158800054350001.47Provincial
262589000543500017.52Provincial
263590000543500025.81Provincial
264591000543500014.52Provincial
265592000543500027.18Provincial
266666000543500016.16Provincial
267667000543500018.92Provincial
26866800054350007.32Provincial
26967300054350002.08Provincial
27067400054350007.79Provincial
271675000543500017.13Provincial
27267700054350001.60Provincial
27367800054350006.19Provincial
274679000543500013.68Provincial
27568000054350004.70Provincial
276681000543500011.72Provincial
277590000543400019.16Provincial
278591000543400013.64Provincial
279592000543400033.29Provincial
28059300054340006.25Provincial
28166500054340002.07Provincial
282666000543400010.66Provincial
283667000543400016.74Provincial
284668000543400017.63Provincial
28566900054340005.84Provincial
28667500054340004.71Provincial
287676000543400013.49Provincial
288677000543400016.26Provincial
289678000543400012.54Provincial
290679000543400014.44Provincial
291680000543400011.11Provincial
29268100054340001.21Provincial
29359000054330006.66Provincial
294591000543300019.96Provincial
29559300054330008.81Provincial
29659400054330005.21Provincial
29766500054330000.01Provincial
298666000543300014.54Provincial
299667000543300010.58Provincial
30066900054330006.50Provincial
30167000054330009.42Provincial
30267500054330008.63Provincial
30367600054330007.64Provincial
304594000543200011.75Provincial
305665000543200012.07Provincial
30666600054320001.03Provincial
307667000543200011.15Provincial
30867000054320005.99Provincial
309671000543200011.78Provincial
310672000543200010.71Provincial
311673000543200011.49Provincial
312674000543200013.55Provincial
313675000543200012.66Provincial
31459400054310003.77Provincial
315595000543100012.62Provincial
31666600054310000.91Provincial
31766700054310006.78Provincial
318674000543100011.35Provincial
31967500054310000.00Provincial
320594000543000015.43Provincial
321595000543000024.61Provincial
322596000543000011.32Provincial
32359700054300000.55Provincial
32467000054300007.92Provincial
325671000543000010.62Provincial
326672000543000010.75Provincial
32767300054300003.78Provincial
32867400054300009.48Provincial
32958600054290004.80Provincial
330587000542900012.25Provincial
331588000542900011.12Provincial
332589000542900010.38Provincial
333590000542900015.72Provincial
33459300054290001.68Provincial
33559400054290002.77Provincial
336595000542900014.22Provincial
33759600054290000.74Provincial
338597000542900012.29Provincial
339598000542900014.41Provincial
340586000542800011.93Provincial
34158800054280000.08Provincial
34258900054280009.85Provincial
34359000054280008.59Provincial
344593000542800010.23Provincial
345594000542800013.99Provincial
34659500054280009.29Provincial
34759600054280000.12Provincial
34859800054280007.70Provincial
34959900054280002.24Provincial
Long description for Table Appendix A - Part 1

Table A1 lists the grid numbers where critical habitat is found and provides the easting and northing, the area in squared hectares within the grid, and land tenure at the site.

Notes of Table Appendix A

Note a of Table Appendix A

The listed coordinates represent the southwest corner of the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) Military Grid Reference System square containing CH. The coordinates may not fall within CH and are provided as a general location only.

Return to notea referrer of table Appendix A

Note b of Table Appendix A

The area presented is of the site boundary containing areas of CH and not necessarily the area of CH itself.

Return to note b referrer of table Appendix A

Note c of Table Appendix A

Land Tenure is provided as an approximation of land ownership of the site containing CH and should be used for guidance purposes only. Accurate land tenure will require cross referencing CH boundaries with surveyed land parcel information.

Return to note c

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Part 2 - Recovery Plan for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Ascaphus montanus) in British Columbia, prepared by the British Columbia Ministry of Environment


Recovery Plan for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Ascaphus montanus) in British Columbia

Prepared by the B.C. Ministry of Environment

Cover page 2 of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog

August 2014

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About the British Columbia Recovery Strategy Series

This series presents the recovery documents that are prepared as advice to the Province of British Columbia on the general approach required to recover species at risk. The Province prepares recovery documents to ensure coordinated conservation actions and to meet its commitments to recover species at risk under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk in Canada and the Canada–British Columbia Agreement on Species at Risk.

What is recovery?

Species at risk recovery is the process by which the decline of an endangered, threatened, or extirpated species is arrested or reversed, and threats are removed or reduced to improve the likelihood of a species' persistence in the wild.

What is a provincial recovery document?

Recovery documents summarize the best available scientific and traditional information of a species or ecosystem to identify goals, objectives, and strategic approaches that provide a coordinated direction for recovery. These documents outline what is and what is not known about a species or ecosystem, identify threats to the species or ecosystem, and explain what should be done to mitigate those threats, as well as provide information on habitat needed for survival and recovery of the species. This information may be summarized in a recovery strategy followed by one or more action plans. The purpose of an action plan is to offer more detailed information to guide implementation of the recovery of a species or ecosystem. When sufficient information to guide implementation can be included from the onset, all of the information is presented together in a recovery plan.

Information provided in provincial recovery documents may be adopted by Environment Canada for inclusion in federal recovery documents that the federal agencies prepare to meet their commitments to recover species at risk under the Species at Risk Act.

What's next?

The Province of British Columbia accepts the information in these documents as advice to inform implementation of recovery measures, including decisions regarding measures to protect habitat for the species.

Success in the recovery of a species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that may be involved in implementing the directions set out in this document. All British Columbians are encouraged to participate in these efforts.

For more information

To learn more about species at risk recovery in British Columbia, please visit the B.C. Ministry of Environment Recovery Planning.

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Recommended citation

B.C. Ministry of Environment. 2014. Recovery plan for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Ascaphus montanus) in British Columbia. Prepared for the B.C. Ministry of Environment, Victoria, BC. 37 pp.

Cover illustration/photograph

Photograph by Purnima Govindarajulu. Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog showing colours that blend in with the cobble/rock stream edges they are often found in. Note the "tail" that gives the Tailed Frog its common name.

Additional copies

Additional copies can be downloaded from the B.C. Ministry of Environment Recovery Planning.

Publication information

ISBN: 978-0-7726-6820-2

Disclaimer

This recovery plan has been prepared by the B.C. Ministry of Environment, as advice to the responsible jurisdictions and organizations that may be involved in recovering the species. The British Columbia Ministry of Environment has received this advice as part of fulfilling its commitments under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk in Canada and the Canada–British Columbia Agreement on Species at Risk.

This document identifies the recovery strategies that are deemed necessary, based on the best available scientific and traditional information, to recover Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog populations in British Columbia. Recovery actions to achieve the goals and objectives identified herein are subject to the priorities and budgetary constraints of participatory agencies and organizations. These goals, objectives, and recovery approaches may be modified in the future to accommodate new objectives and findings.

The responsible jurisdictions and all members of the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog Recovery Team have had an opportunity to review this document. However, this document does not necessarily represent the official positions of the agencies or the personal views of all individuals on the recovery team.

Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that may be involved in implementing the directions set out in this plan. The B.C. Ministry of Environment encourages all British Columbians to participate in the recovery of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog.

Acknowledgements

Ian Adams (Vast Resource Solutions) updated this recovery plan to its current state with funding support by Environment Canada – Canadian Wildlife Service and B.C. Ministry of Environment (B.C. MoE). An earlier draft version of the plan in 2007 was funded by the Forest Investment Account of British Columbia and B.C. MoE. Linda Friele (Ascaphus Consulting) wrote an earlier version with input and collaboration from other members of the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog Recovery Team: Ted Antifeau (Co-chair, B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations [B.C. FLNRO]); Larry Halverson (retired, Co-chair, Parks Canada); Colin Campbell (BC Environmental Network); Paul Chalifour (retired, B.C. Ministry of Forests); Al Pollard (retired, B.C. Timber Sales, B.C. Ministry of Forests); John Richardson (University of British Columbia); and Kari Stuart-Smith (Canfor, BC Division). Many sections of this plan are directly taken from that work.

This plan has benefited greatly from discussions and review from Purnima Govindarajulu (B.C. MoE), Ted Antifeau, Linda Dupuis, Leah Westereng (B.C. MoE), and Kathy Paige (B.C. MoE). Purnima Govindarajulu, David Fraser (B.C. MoE), Ted Antifeau, Melissa Todd (B.C. FLNRO), David Green (McGill University), Lea Gelling (B.C. MoE), Kristiina Ovaska (Biolinx Environmental Research Ltd.), and Ian Adams completed the threat assessment. Jared Hobbs (Hobbs Photo Images Co.) and Purnima Govindarajulu provided use of their photos and David Green use of the range map.

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Executive Summary

The Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Ascaphus montanus) is a unique amphibian endemic to the mountainous inland Pacific Northwest. In Canada, the species occurs only in southeast British Columbia (B.C.) in two separate, unconnected watersheds – the Flathead and Yahk. The relatively small frog is sexually dimorphic with males exhibiting a "tail" that is a copulatory organ. The species inhabits cool, mid-elevation montane streams and surrounding riparian habitat. The larval tadpoles have a modified mouth that acts as a sucker to help maintain the tadpole’s location within often swift-moving small streams. The Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog is relatively unique among anurans in being slow developing and long-lived. Metamorphosis usually occurs after 3 years in the larval stage and the frogs are not reproductively active until age 7 or 8 post-hatching.

The status of the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog was recently re-examined and designated as Threatened (Nov. 2013) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) based on its small number of mature individuals, unusual habitat use, and sensitivity to changes. The change of status from Endangered was due to the increased habitat protection and a moratorium on mining in the Flathead River portion of the range. It is currently listed as Endangered in Canada on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). In B.C., the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog is ranked S2 (imperiled) by the Conservation Data Centre and is on the provincial Red list. The B.C. Conservation Framework ranks the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog as a priority 2 under goal 3 (maintain the diversity of native species and ecosystems). It is protected from capture and killing, under the B.C. Wildlife Act.It is also listed as a species that requires special management attention to address the impacts of forest and range activities under the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) on Crown land (as described in the Identified Wildlife Management Strategy). Recovery is considered to be biologically and technically feasible.

The greatest threat to Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog populations in B.C. is pollution from agricultural and forestry effluents that cause increased sedimentation of streams, followed by fire and fire suppression.

The recovery (population and distribution) goal is to maintain stable or increasing populations of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog distributed throughout the species' range in British Columbia, including any additional populations that may be discovered.

The achievement of this recovery goal is supported by the following recovery objectives:

  1. Update distribution of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in B.C. by attempting to confirm anecdotal reports in the Flathead and conducting similar searches in other watersheds currently considered unoccupied.

  2. Implement habitat protection measures, assess effectiveness by regular monitoring, and implement adaptive management as necessary to ensure habitat protection measures are effective over the long term.

  3. Assess if populations are stable by monitoring and reporting on population size and trends at nested spatial scales, and initiate recovery actions as necessary and appropriate.

  4. Monitor and report on habitat quality trends at nested spatial scales to evaluate continuing and emerging impacts of anthropogenic and natural habitat change (e.g., climate change) that may occur even in protected areas, and initiate mitigation as appropriate.

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Recovery Feasibility Summary

The recovery of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in B.C. is considered technically and biologically feasible based on the criteria outlined by the Government of Canada (2009):

  1. Individuals of the wildlife species that are capable of reproduction are available now or in the foreseeable future to sustain the population or improve its abundance.

    Yes. In 2002, the Yahk population was estimated to have 1230 adult females. In 2004 the Flathead population was estimated to have 250 adult females.

  2. Sufficient suitable habitat is available to support the species or could be made available through habitat management or restoration.

    Yes. The vast majority of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog range within Canada occurs within approved Wildlife Habitat Areas (WHA), under the B.C. Forest and Range Practices Act. These WHAs are proposed at this time to be sufficient habitat to protect Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog habitat, although activities outside these WHAs may affect the effectiveness of this protection.

  3. The primary threats to the species or its habitat (including threats outside Canada) can be avoided or mitigated.

    Yes. A variety of human activities resulting in increased agricultural and forestry effluents are the primary concern. Careful land management can avoid or minimize the impacts of these threats.

  4. Recovery techniques exist to achieve the population and distribution objectives or can be expected to be developed within a reasonable timeframe.

    Yes. Management options are available or already implemented to help achieve recovery objectives.

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1. COSEWICFootnotea Species Assessment Information

Assessment Summary - November 2013

Common name (population):Footnoteb Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog

Scientific name:Footnoteb Ascaphus montanus

Status: Threatened

Reason for designation: In Canada, this unusual stream-breeding frog is restricted to two unconnected watersheds, where it relies on small, forested fast-flowing streams. Habitat damage from sedimentation due primarily to roads, logging, and fires, and loss of terrestrial dispersal habitat from logging and wood harvesting are key threats. The total population is small, consisting of approximately 3000 adults, which increases the vulnerability of the population to environmental perturbations. Increases in habitat protection and a moratorium on mining in the Flathead River portion of the range resulted in a change of status from Endangered.

Occurrence: B.C.

Status history: Designated Endangered in May 2000. Status re-examined and designated

Footnote a

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Return to footnotea referrer

Footnote b

Common and scientific names reported in this recovery plan follow the naming conventions of the British Columbia Conservation Data Centre, which may be different from names reported by COSEWIC.

Return to footnoteb referrer

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2. Species Status Information

Rocky Mountain Tailed FrogFootnotea

Legal Designation:
FRPA:Footnoteb Species at Risk
OGAA:Footnoteb Species at Risk
B.C. Wildlife Act:Footnotec Schedule A
SARA: Schedule 1 - Endangered (2003)Footnoted

Conservation StatusFootnotee
B.C. List: Red
B.C. Rank: S2 (2010)
National Rank: N2 (2011)
Global Rank: G4 (2004)
Other Subnational Ranks:Footnotef
Idaho: S3; Montana: S4; Oregon: S2; Washington: S2?

B.C. Conservation Framework (CF)Footnoteg
Goal 1: Contribute to global efforts for species and ecosystem conservation. Priority:Footnoteh 5 (2009)
Goal 2: Prevent species and ecosystems from becoming at risk. Priority: 6 (2009)
Goal 3: Maintain the diversity of native species and ecosystems. Priority: 2 (2009)

CF Action Groups:
Compile Status Report; Planning; List under Wildlife Act; Send to COSEWIC; Habitat Protection;
Habitat Restoration; Private Land Stewardship; Species and Population Management

Footnote a

Data source: B.C. Conservation Data Centre (2014a) unless otherwise noted.

Return to footnote a referrer

Footnote b

Species at Risk = a listed species that requires special management attention to address the impacts of forest and range activities on Crown land under the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA; Province of British Columbia 2002) and/or the impacts of oil and gas activities on Crown land under the Oil and Gas Activities Act (OGAA; Province of British Columbia 2008) as described in the Identified Wildlife Management Strategy (Province of British Columbia 2004).

Return to footnote b referrer

Footnote c

Schedule A = designated as wildlife under the B.C. Wildlife Act, which offers it protection from direct persecution and mortality (Province of British Columbia 1982).

Return to footnote c referrer

Footnote d

Schedule 1 = found on the List of Wildlife Species at Risk under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). This species was recently reassessed by COSEWIC as Threatened. This assessment will be reviewed by the Governor in Council (GIC) who will make a decision as to whether to amend the List to reclassify this species as Threatened. If the GIC does not make a decision within nine months of receiving the COSEWIC assessment, the Minister shall by order amend the List according to COSEWIC's assessment.

Return to footnote d referrer

Footnote e

S = subnational; N = national; G = global; X = presumed extirpated; H = possibly extirpated; 1 = critically imperiled; 2 = imperiled; 3 = special concern, vulnerable to extirpation or extinction; 4 = apparently secure; 5 = demonstrably widespread, abundant, and secure.

Return to footnote e referrer

Footnote f

Data source: NatureServe (2013).

Return to footnote f referrer

Footnote g

Data source: B.C. Ministry of Environment (2010).

Return to footnote g referrer

Footnote h

Six-level scale: Priority 1 (highest priority) through to Priority 6 (lowest priority).

Return to footnote h referrer

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3. Species Information

3.1 Species Description

The Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Ascaphus montanus) is a small anuran amphibian that inhabits mid- to high-elevation mountain streams. Adults are 2 to 5 cm long and coloured gray, brown, or olive or a combination, with bumpy skin (Figure 1). The "tail" is actually a copulatory organ, found only on males. Unlike most other anurans, fertilization is internal. Females lay up to 50 eggs in a single strand that is attached to the underside of rocks submerged in the stream. Tadpoles have a modified mouth that not only enables feeding on periphyton but also acts as a sucker to provide stability against the stream current (Dupuis and Friele 2005). Metamorphosis usually occurs after 3 years in the tadpole stage, although the length of the larval period depends on water temperature and food availability (Daugherty and Sheldon 1982a). Adults do not reach sexual maturity until 7 or 8 years of age post-hatching (Daugherty and Sheldon 1982a).

Until 2001, the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog was previously recognized as a subspecies of the Coastal Tailed Frog (Ascaphus truei). Mitochondrial divergence as well as allozyme and morphology differences led to inland tailed frog populations being recognized as a distinct species, Ascaphus montanus (Nielson et al. 2001, 2006; Conlon et al. 2007).

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Figure 1: Photographs of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog. A: adult male; B: adult female; C: tadpole (ventral view showing modified "sucker" mouth); D: tadpole in high flow stream.
Photos A-C: © Jared Hobbs. Photo D: Purnima Govindarajulu.
Photographs of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (see long description below)
Long description for Figure 1 - Part 2

Figure 1 shows four images of the species:

  1. illustrates the short tail that gives the species its name on an adult male,
  2. shows that the female does not have this tail,
  3. is an underside view of the tadpole,
  4. is a view of a tadpole in a stream.

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3.2 Populations and Distribution

3.2.1 Global Range

Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs are endemic to the Intermountain northwest of the United States and Canada. The core range of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog is found from the Flathead River drainage in southeastern British Columbia (B.C.), through western Montana and northern Idaho. There are isolated populations in the Yahk River (Yaak River in the United States) drainage of southern B.C. and northwest Montana, western Idaho, southeastern Washington, and northeastern Oregon (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Global distribution of known Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Ascaphus montanus) occurrences. Source: with permission by COSEWIC (in press); adapted from Green et al., in press.
Global distribution of known Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (see long description below)
Long description for Figure 2 - Part 2

Figure 2 presents the distribution of the species in Canada and the United States. There are three occurrences in south-eastern British Columbia, the other 50 or so are spread throughout south-eastern Washington, north-eastern Oregon, northern Idaho, and western Montana.

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3.2.2 British Columbia Range

In Canada, the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog occurs only within B.C. It has a disjunct distribution along the B.C.–Montana border (Figure 3). One population (hereafter "Flathead") is found in the Border Ranges of the Rocky Mountains; the other (hereafter "Yahk") is farther west in the McGillivray Range of the Columbia Mountains.

Figure 3. Distribution of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in British Columbia.
Confirmed observations (green circles) and approved Wildlife Habitat Areas (orange lines) in the Yahk drainage (left side of map) and Flathead drainage (right side of map). See Figure 4 for detailed range for each population. Black triangles indicate search location between 1996 and 2004 with no Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog observed. Blue diamonds are recorded observations in Montana (source: Montana Natural Heritage Program [NHP]). Red diamonds are reported Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog observations in B.C. by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) staff while conducting electrofishing searches for Bull Trout in the B.C. Flathead River watershed (see Appendix 1).
Distribution of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in BC (see long description below)
Long description for Figure 3 - Part 2

Figure 3 shows the distribution of the species in Canada according to whether they were observed, not observed, found by Montana FWP staff, or if it's a Montana NHP record. There are approximately 3 times more sites were the species was not found than sites where they are found. The latter are limited to sites near the Yahk and Flathead drainage.

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Yahk population

The Yahk population (Figure 4A) occupies an area of roughly 120 km2 and includes all perennial streams within this range (Dupuis and Friele 2002). The bulk of individuals occur along mid to upper portions of the Yahk River in Canada. Within the Yahk population there are two separate, smaller subpopulations: one in Boyd Creek, which drains into the lower Yahk River near the U.S. border; the other in Screw Creek, which flows into the West Yahk River as it loops over the U.S. border into B.C. for 1.5 km, before it joins the Yahk River in Montana (spelled "Yaak" in Montana). Range information is based on 295 surveys (Dupuis and Bunnell 1997; Dupuis and Friele 2002) of the Yahk and neighbouring river watersheds.

Flathead population

Based on roughly 460 surveys over four summers within the Flathead and adjacent watersheds (Dupuis and Bunnell 1997; Dupuis and Wilson 1999; Dupuis and Friele 2004a, 2004b, 2006), the Flathead population (Figure 4B) of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog was thought to be limited to an area of roughly 303 km2 primarily within two large watersheds (Cabin and Couldrey creeks) that flow eastward into the Flathead River. Small satellite populations exist in Leslie Creek, also a Flathead tributary, and in the Bighorn, a tributary to Wigwam Creek (which ultimately flows into the Kootenay River). This Flathead population is restricted to specific reaches of American Couldrey, Canadian Couldrey, Burnham, Cabin, Storm, Leslie, and Bighorn creeks (Dupuis and Friele 2004a) where cold creeks associated with steep relief or ground water springs are relatively common.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff (A. Steed, pers. comm., 2013) reported several Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs within the Canadian Flathead River watershed. These observations were made during electrofishing efforts between 2008 and 2012 (see Appendix 1). Most of these observations occurred within previously accepted range of the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog; however, two observations occurred east of the Flathead River mainstem, in Elder Creek and one observation at the north end of the watershed in McEvoy Creek (Figure 3).

There are also several records of A. montanus from the Wigwam River headwaters in Montana as reported by the Montana Natural Heritage Program (2014). Searches in the B.C. reaches of the Wigwam River and its tributaries were conducted in 1996 with no positive observations. Revisiting Wigwam tributaries of the Flathead River watershed may be justified given the recent records outside of its previously known range and emergence of eDNA and electroshocking techniques.

Figure 4. Distribution of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog tadpoles and adults in the Yahk River (A) and the Flathead River (B) watersheds. Source: adapted from Dupuis and Friele (2006).
Yahk River (A) and the Flathead River (B) (see long description below)
Long description for Figure 4 - Part 2

Figure 4 shows a close-up of each watershed. In both watersheds, individuals were found along the rivers. At each site, the number of individuals of each life-cycle stage was noted; either just tadpoles, just adults, or both The Yahk River watershed appears to have more adults, whereas the Flathead River watershed appears to have more tadpoles.

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Abundance in B.C.

Abundance of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs can vary greatly year to year (e.g., Cordilleran Geoscience and ESSA Technologies 2010). Previous estimates of adult female abundance (Table 1) suggested over 4 times as many breeding females in the Yahk population compared to the Flathead population.

Table 1. Status and description of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog populations in B.C.
PopulationStatus and descriptionLand tenure
YahkDupuis and Friele (2002) sampled the entire extent of the Yahk Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog population and determined the total length of perennial creek habitat in this watershed to be 59 km; roughly 65% of this estimate coincides with breeding reaches (total = 38 km of breeding habitat). A mean of 0.8 females was encountered per 30-minute search of an average creek length of 25 m in 2002. This leads to an estimated 1230 adult females in the Yahk River watershed. Total population size is unknown.Crown land
FlatheadThe total length of breeding habitat in the Flathead watershed is roughly 50 km (Dupuis and Friele 2004a, 2005). Given the mean of 0.124 females encountered in an average creek length of 25 m in 2004, there were an estimated 250 adult females in the Flathead watershed at that time. Total population size is unknown.Crown land
Long description for Table 1 - Part 2

Table 1 provides a description of both sites and the land tenure for each

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Land tenure

The Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog occurs exclusively on provincial Crown land (Table 1). There is one parcel of private land in the Flathead drainage; however, no tadpoles or frogs have been observed during surveys on this property (Dupuis and Friele 2004a). The reach of Leslie Creek that runs through this property into Hunger Lake is considered too cold to support Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Dupuis and Friele 2005). Two other parcels of private land occur in the same area, but are likely outside Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog range. The parcel on the Flathead River mainstem along the U.S.–Canada border may have very occasional tadpole occurrences as a result of drift from core reaches. There is no private land in the Yahk watershed in the proximity of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog occurrence.

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3.3 Habitat and Biological Needs of the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog

The Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog occurs in several biogeoclimatic subzonesFootnote2 within its limited Canadian range. Most inhabited streams and adjacent riparian zones in the Yahk population occur within the Interior Cedar–Hemlock dry, mild (ICHdm), and Montane Spruce dry, cool (MSdk1) subzones. Upper reaches of many streams are in the Engelmann Spruce–Subalpine Fir dry, cool (ESSFdk1), and a small portion of the Screw Creek occurrence is in the Interior Cedar–Hemlock moist, cool (ICHmk4). In the Flathead population, the lower reaches of occupied streams are in the MSdk1, while the upper reaches are in the ESSFdk1 (B.C. Conservation Data Centre 2014b).

The Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog occupies water basins with a contributing area of up to 80 km2, though their numbers peak in basins of roughly 1.5–30 km2 (Dupuis and Friele 2006). These basins are characterized by:

  • minimal channel sedimentation;

  • streams with good perennial flows (bankfull discharge rates of 0.3–1.0 m3/s);

  • overall channel gradients of 10–30%;

  • presence of cascade and step-pool morphologies (see Montgomery and Buffington [1997] for a discussion of channel morphologies);

  • modulated summer freshet (high stream flow resulting from spring thaw of winter snow accumulation);

  • suitable water temperatures: survival of eggs require temperatures between 5 and 18.5oC (Brown 1975); tadpoles exist optimally between 9 and 16oC (Dupuis and Friele 2002). Lethal maximum water temperatures for adults range from 22 (Metter 1966) to 24.1oC (Claussen 1973); and

  • presence of appropriate upland (terrestrial) habitats: mature (100- to 140-year-old) or old growth (> 140 years of age) forest stands adjacent to riparian zones and at seepage sites; where this habitat is absent, younger forests should be maintained for long-term restoration and recovery. Upland habitat is needed help maintain present and future riparian microhabitat conditions, and increase the availability of terrestrial foraging and dispersal habitats for juveniles and adults. Older forests are also needed along ephemeral headwaters to provide key linkages between occurrences.

Basins occupied by Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog can be classified into three zones: frontier, core, and transition. First-order headwaters are referred to as "frontier" zones and are used as mating sites (Dupuis and Friele 2006). In this zone, tadpole distribution is patchy and maybe scarce as streams are steeper, with fewer refuge spaces between rocks, and are subject to late summer flow contraction (Dupuis and Friele 2002, 2004a). Core zones contain an abundance of tadpoles, although all life stages are present (Dupuis and Friele 2002, 2006). Mainstem reaches with larger contributing areas, between 50 and 80 km2, are referred to as transition zones. These larger mainstems, with plane bed to pool riffle channel morphologies, and bankfull discharge rates that exceed 10 m3/s, are not considered suitable breeding habitat because these physical conditions are unsuited to egg survival. Tadpoles are occasionally encountered in them but probably due to downstream drift. Frontier and transition zones may contain a large segment of the adult population as these areas are possibly used by frogs to disperse into adjacent watersheds (Dupuis and Friele 2002).

Tadpole habitat

Tailed frogs are strongly adapted to the drop-pool (cascade and step-pool) sequences of hillslope channels (Dupuis and Friele 2002, 2004a), which are made up of coarse substrates and provide channel stability. Coarse substrates provide more space between rocks (pore space), which serve as refugia from high-flow events. This microhabitat is particularly important for tadpole and metamorph life stages and may be destroyed by extreme events (Chin 1998). However, as long as return intervals are a greater duration than the in-stream larval residence period (i.e., at least 3 years, from egg laying to metamorphosis), then long-term habitat quality can be considered good for the species. Tailed frogs may move seasonally to avoid temperature extremes. Adams and Frissell (2001) observed individuals moving downstream from lake outlets in Montana where temperatures reached 21oC, presumably to access lower water temperatures.

Adult and juvenile habitat

Juveniles and adults are regularly found both above and below the breeding reaches (i.e., core zone) because these life stages are more terrestrial and their distribution is not as strongly tied to in-stream conditions. For example, 50% of the adults encountered in the Yahk River watershed in 2001 (n = 208 frogs) were on first-order streams (Dupuis and Friele 2002). This pattern is perhaps explained by headwater dispersal. In the Flathead River watershed in 2003, 19% of the juveniles and adults (13 of 67 frogs) were encountered in stream reaches draining large basin areas where breeding activity was not detected (Dupuis and Friele 2004a).

Juveniles and adults appear to be governed by forest structure attributes including forest age and riparian vegetation cover (Dupuis and Friele 2002; Stoddard 2002; Welsh and Lind 2002), and by the percentage of undisturbed (mature and old-growth) forest within a watershed (Corn and Bury 1989; Dupuis and Friele 2002; Stoddard 2002). The extreme site fidelity of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog to riparian zones and its dependence on older forest is likely a function of the continental climate in southeastern B.C., and of the species’ intolerance to high temperatures and xeric conditions. In drought periods, adults have been found congregating in nearby seepage areas and springs, or adjacent to dry first-order streams (P. Friele, pers. observation 2004; L. Dupuis, pers. observation 2004; T. Antifeau, pers. observation, 2004). Thus, seepage sites represent sites of special interest to the juvenile and adult life stages.

Although the upland forest matrix may be hot and dry, and therefore not conducive to Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogmovements during some parts of the year, it may be used when conditions are more favourable to movement (i.e., milder and moister conditions in spring and late summer/early fall). Unfavourable conditions may be exacerbated by forest harvest that generally reduces cover and results in drier conditions. Spear and Storfer (2010) found that, in harvested landscapes, tailed frogs dispersal shifted more to using riparian buffers instead of dispersing through the broader landscape. More research is required, but these findings suggest the importance of providing upland forested areas to serve as dispersal habitat to facilitate maintaining genetic diversity of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog populations (Wahbe et al. 2012).

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3.4 Ecological Role

The Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog is the largest vertebrate in non-fish-bearing tributaries within its range. Tailed frogs have a significant role in the mountain stream ecosystem as a dominant grazer (see Rosenfeld 1997) and adults may play a significant role in the food chain of adjacent riparian zones, feeding on terrestrial invertebrates. Their slow metabolism enables them to use prey with low food value, which they convert into biomass that is more available to birds and mammals (Pough 1983). American Dippers (Cinclus mexicanus) are known to prey on tailed frog tadpoles (Morrissey and Olenick 2004). Other predators include Cutthroat Trout (Salmo clarki) and garter snakes (Thamnophis spp.) (Daugherty and Sheldon 1982a; COSEWIC 2000).

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3.5 Limiting Factors

Specific habitat

Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog adults are restricted by the availability of moist terrestrial foraging habitat. Tadpole rearing habitat is primarily limited by the availability of perennial streams with good summer flows (i.e., bankfull discharge of 0.5–6.0 m3/s is ideal), moderate stream temperatures (ideally 9–16oC in August), and cascade or step-pool morphologies. Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog is subject to natural flooding events, debris flows, and channel drying during its aquatic life stage. Tadpoles have an in-stream residency of 3.5 years from egg laying to metamorphosis (Dupuis and Friele 2002). If channel disturbances rework the channel bed that they occupy, and interstitial spaces amongst anchored substrates are unavailable, tadpoles risk displacement and mortality (Metter 1968; Welsh and Ollivier 1998).

Low reproductive rate

Ascaphus spp. have one of the smallest clutch sizes and the longest larval developmental stage of all anurans (Duellman and Trueb 1994). Metamorphosis occurs after at least 3 years in the tadpole stage (Daugherty and Sheldon 1982a). Individuals do not reach reproductive maturity until 7–8 years of age, but may live up to 14 years, occasionally longer (Daugherty and Sheldon 1982b; Brown 1990). Generation length is estimated at 9–11 years.

Stream temperature

Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs are thought to be limited by stream temperature. Coastal Tailed Frog (A. truei) tadpoles died within 24–28 hours in waters held at 22oC (Metter 1966), while adults rarely occur in streams with maximum temperatures above 16.8oC (Pilliod et al. 2003). Dunham et al. (2007) found Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogtadpoles in post-fire streams in central Idaho with maximum daily temperatures as high as 26.6oC. However, most waters were cooler (< 20oC) and Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog are thought to be able to persist in generally warmer waters by finding pockets of cooler water (Adams and Frissell 2001; Bury 2008). Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog eggs require temperatures between 5 and 18.5oC (Brown 1975) and tadpoles exist optimally between 9 and 16oC (Dupuis and Friele 2002).

Predation

Predation by fish (in particular, sculpins [Cottus sp.]) in larger streams may partly explain the tailed frog's tendency to select smaller, steeper channels (Feminella and Hawkins 1994). Tailed frog numbers were higher above fish barriers (Dupuis and Friele 2002), but this observation is confounded by the fact that those same sites were the least impacted by forestry operations.

Dispersal

Movements by adults are very limited; Daugherty and Sheldon (1982b) reported a maximum movement of 20 m/yr for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog adults in the Missoula Valley of Montana. Tadpoles likely drift downstream with water currents; whether these tadpoles survive to metamorphosis and then to adulthood are unknown.

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4. Threats

Threats are defined as the proximate activities or processes that have caused, are causing, or may cause in the future the destruction, degradation, and/or impairment of the entity being assessed (population, species, community, or ecosystem) in the area of interest (global, national, or subnational) (Salafsky et al. 2008). For purposes of threat assessment, only present and future threats are consideredFootnote3. Threats presented here do not include biological features of the species or population such as inbreeding depression, small population size, and genetic isolation; or likelihood of regeneration or recolonization for ecosystems, which are considered limiting factors (Table 2)Footnote4.

For the most part, threats are related to human activities, but they can be natural. The impact of human activity may be direct (e.g., destruction of habitat) or indirect (e.g., invasive species introduction). Effects of natural phenomena (e.g., fire, hurricane, flooding) may be especially important when the species or ecosystem is concentrated in one location or has few occurrences, which may be a result of human activity (Master et al. 2009). As such, natural phenomena are included in the definition of a threat, though should be applied cautiously. These stochastic events should only be considered a threat if a species or habitat is damaged from other threats and has lost its resilience, and is thus vulnerable to the disturbance (Salafsky et al. 2008) so that these types of events would have a disproportionately large effect on the population/ecosystem compared to the effect they would have had historically.

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4.1 Threat Assessment

The threat classification below is based on the IUCN-CMP (World Conservation Union–Conservation Measures Partnership) unified threats classification system and is consistent with methods used by the B.C. Conservation Data Centre and the B.C. Conservation Framework. For a detailed description of the threat classification system, see the CMP website (CMP 2010). Threats may be observed, inferred, or projected to occur in the near term. Threats are characterized here in terms of scope, severity, and timing. Threat "impact" is calculated from scope and severity. For information on how the values are assigned, see Master et al. (2009) and table footnotes for details. Threats for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog were assessed for the entire province (Table 2).

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Table 2. Threat classification table for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog.
Threat #Threat descriptionImpactFootnoteaScopeFootnotebSeverityFootnotecTimingFootnoted
2Agriculture & aquacultureNegligibleNegligible (< 1%)Slight (1–10%)High (Continuing)
2.3Livestock farming & ranchingNegligibleNegligible (< 1%)Slight (1–10%)High (Continuing)
3Energy production & miningNot Calculated--Low
3.1Oil & gas drillingNot Calculated--Low
3.2Mining & quarryingNot Calculated--Low
3.3Renewable energyNot Calculated--Low
4Transportation & service corridorsNegligibleLarge (31–70%)Negligible (< 1%)High (Continuing)
4.1Roads & railroadsNegligibleLarge (31–70%)Negligible (< 1%)High (Continuing)
5Biological resource useLowRestricted - Small (1–30%)Moderate - Slight (1–30%)High (Continuing)
5.3Logging & wood harvestingLowRestricted - Small (1–30%)Moderate - Slight (1–30%)High (Continuing)
6Human intrusions & disturbanceLowLarge (31–70%)Slight (1–10%)High (Continuing)
6.1Recreational activitiesLowLarge (31–70%)Slight (1–10%)High (Continuing)
6.3Work & other activitiesUnknownUnknownUnknownHigh (Continuing)
7Natural system modificationsMed.- LowRestricted (11–30%)Moderate - Slight (1–30%)High (Continuing)
7.1Fire & fire suppressionMed.- LowRestricted (11–30%)Moderate - Slight (1–30%)High (Continuing)
8Invasive & other problematic species & genesUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknown
8.1Invasive non-native/alien speciesUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknown
9PollutionHigh - Med.Large (31–70%)Serious - Moderate (11–70%)High (Continuing)
9.3Agricultural & forestry effluentsHigh - Med.Large (31–70%)Serious - Moderate (11–70%)High (Continuing)
10Geological eventsLowSmall (1–10%)Serious (31–70%)High (Continuing)
10.3Avalanches/landslidesLowSmall (1–10%)Serious (31–70%)High (Continuing)
11Climate change & severe weatherLowSmall (1–10%)Moderate (11–30%)High - Moderate
11.2    DroughtsLowSmall (1–10%)Moderate (11–30%)High - Moderate
11.3Temperature extremesUnknownUnknownUnknownHigh - Moderate
11.4Storms & floodingLowSmall (1–10%)Moderate (11–30%)High - Moderate
Long description for Table 2 - Part 2

Table 2 lists the threats to the species using 10 broad categories. The sub-categories are then described according to impact, scope, severity, and timing.

Note a of Table 2

Impact – The degree to which a species is observed, inferred, or suspected to be directly or indirectly threatened in the area of interest. The impact of each threat is based on severity and scope rating and considers only present and future threats. Threat impact reflects a reduction of a species population or decline/degradation of the area of an ecosystem. The median rate of population reduction or area decline for each combination of scope and severity corresponds to the following classes of threat impact: Very High (75% declines), High (40%), Medium (15%), and Low (3%). Unknown: used when impact cannot be determined (e.g., if values for either scope or severity are unknown); Not Calculated: impact not calculated as threat is outside the assessment timeframe (e.g., timing is insignificant/negligible or low as threat is only considered to be in the past); Negligible: when scope or severity is negligible; Not a Threat: when severity is scored as neutral or potential benefit.

Return to notea referrer of table 2

Note b of Table 2

Scope – Proportion of the species that can reasonably be expected to be affected by the threat within 10 years. Usually measured as a proportion of the species' population in the area of interest. (Pervasive = 71–100%; Large = 31–70%; Restricted = 11–30%; Small = 1–10%; Negligible < 1%).

Return to noteb referrer of table 2

Note c of Table 2

Severity – Within the scope, the level of damage to the species from the threat that can reasonably be expected to be affected by the threat within a 10-year or three-generation timeframe. For this species a generation time of 9–11 years (COSEWIC, in press) was used resulting in severity being scored over a 27- to 33-year timeframe. Usually measured as the degree of reduction of the species' population. (Extreme = 71–100%; Serious = 31–70%; Moderate = 11–30%; Slight = 1–10%; Negligible < 1%; Neutral or Potential Benefit > 0%).

Return to notec referrer of table 2

Note d of Table 2

Timing – High = continuing; Moderate = only in the future (could happen in the short term [< 10 years or 3 generations]) or now suspended (could come back in the short term); Low = only in the future (could happen in the long term) or now suspended (could come back in the long term); Insignificant/Negligible = only in the past and unlikely to return, or no direct effect but limiting.

Return to noted referrer of table 2

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4.2 Description of Threats

The overall province-wide Threat Impact for this species is HighFootnote5. The greatest threat is "Agricultural & forestry effluents" (sedimentation of stream habitats scored as having a High-Medium impact) (Table 2). Details are discussed below under the Threat Level 1 headings.

IUCN-CMP Threat 2. Agriculture & aquaculture (2.3 Livestock farming & ranching)

Cattle (Bos taurus) can trample streambanks and destroy riparian vegetation, thereby increasing bank erosion and stream sedimentation. This bank destabilization causes creeks to fill in and become braided (Miles 1995). Resulting sand/pebble dominated stream reaches would support few tadpoles.

The high methane content of cow manure in or near water leads to raised water temperatures during the summer. High temperatures further accelerate stream productivity, oxygen depletion, and contamination rates. Tailed frogs require cool, highly oxygenated water for survival (Metter 1966; Claussen 1973; Brown 1975). Although aspect, flow rate, lake sources, and the availability of shade from mature forest canopies can all affect water temperature, the potential influence of methane from cow manure is noteworthy.

There are no range tenures in the main Yahk population distribution. The only range tenure occurs in the isolated Screw Creek as part of the West Yahk drainage. In the Flathead population, the only tenures that permit grazing are guide-outfitter areas that allow horse grazing. Although this could include horses crossing and stepping in Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog streams, this is likely no more of a threat than native ungulates doing the same thing.

IUCN-CMP Threat 3. Energy production & mining

Threat impact is not calculated for this threat because it is considered a past threat (now ceased) or the threat could happen in the future but not likely within assessment timeframe of 27–33 years.

3.1 Oil & gas drilling and 3.2 Mining & quarrying

Mining activities have the ability to seriously degrade stream habitats, and consequently Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog habitat (among other species). Mines may either completely remove some creeks, or alter them sufficiently to render then ineffective as Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog habitat.

However, subsurface exploration and development are not a threat to Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in the near term because a ban on subsurface activity in the Flathead was legally implemented under the Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act (Province of British Columbia 2011). There are no known petroleum reserves overlapping Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog range in the Yahk drainage (Province of British Columbia 2014). A small portion of the upper reaches of the Yahk River and three of its side drainages that occur within known Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog range overlap with active mineral tenures. Likelihood of any significant exploration on these tenures is very low and the probability of development into an active mine site even lower.

3.3 Renewable energy

Independent power projects (IPPs) that divert stream flows (e.g., "run-of-the-river" hydroelectric generation) have the potential to significantly degrade tailed frog habitat (COSEWIC 2011). There are no known IPPs planned within Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog’s B.C. distribution for this area, so this threat was not scored. Streams inhabited by Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs are generally the smaller reaches of relatively isolated streams, which are unlikely to be suitable for industrial IPPs and no IPP applications are currently in process where Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs have been found (T. Antifeau, pers. comm., 2013).

IUCN-CMP Threat 4. Transportation & service corridors (4.1 Roads & railroads)

This category records impacts to Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs from new road construction (habitat loss) and roadkill, and not sedimentation, which is captured under Threat 9.3. The risk of road mortality is low because of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog’s nocturnal habits and low traffic volumes at night. Barrier effects of culverts are unknown. Full-round culverts are likely barriers to at least upstream movements; however, adherence to best management practices and the general wildlife measures within WHAs for access that specify the use of bridges or open-bottom (half-round) culverts for road crossings (B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection 2004) appears to have addressed this potential issue.

IUCN-CMP Threat 5. Biological resource use (5.3 Logging & wood harvesting)

Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs have a lower frequency of occurrence in watersheds with a history of logging than in unlogged watersheds (Corn and Bury 1989; Richardson and Neill 1995; Frid et al. 2003). Declines in tailed frog tadpole abundance following timber harvesting have been documented (Gaige 1920; Noble and Putnam 1931; Metter 1964; Bury 1983; Bury and Corn 1988; Corn and Bury 1989; Aubry and Hall 1991; Gilbert and Allwine 1991; Welsh and Lind 1991, 2002; Kelsey 1995; Bull and Carter 1996; Dupuis and Steventon 1999; Biek et al. 2002), but much of this decline may be due to sedimentation (accounted for in Threat 9.3). There is wide variation (temporal and spatial) in tadpole abundance, which makes it difficult to use tadpole abundance as an indicator of long-term impacts of threats.

Impacts from logging and wood harvesting come from loss of forest cover, leading to hotter, drier conditions, both terrestrially and in stream; and removal of dispersal habitats and refuge habitats such as seeps that may dry out or be destroyed during yarding and skidding activities. Logging can also increase likelihood of flooding and increased run-off (see IUCN-CMP Threat 9.3).

Outside the cool and moist conditions of spring and fall, the upland forest matrix may be hot and dry and not conducive to Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog movement. These unfavourable conditions are exacerbated by forest harvest that generally reduces cover and results in drier conditions. Spear and Storfer (2010) found that gene flow was lower between populations separated by logged forests than those separated by burned stands. They also found gene flow (dispersal) in logged landscapes was primarily along riparian buffer corridors.

Logging may increase the peak discharge of small frequent floods (< 2 year return interval), but does not significantly affect larger, less frequent floods (Thomas and Megahan 1998). In this context, logging-related increases in event peak discharge are not thought to be a significant cause of channel disturbance. However, because interior creeks are snowmelt dominated, forestry activities can alter the seasonal hydrograph by removing forest cover and exposing the snowpack to direct UV radiation (versus long-wave radiation under a canopy), resulting in an earlier snowmelt freshet (Whitaker et al. 2002; Schnorbus and Alila 2004).

Most stream reaches with Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog are protected with buffers (50 m each side) through Wildlife Habitat Areas (WHAs), although in no cases is the entire drainage area protected. A small amount of logging is slated in the next 10 years (COSEWIC, in press). There is some uncertainty for the scope of this threat because harvesting plans can change any time. Severity score includes effects on Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs from removal of trees and hydrology impacts and not effects that arise due to sedimentation. Currently the major logging company in the area has FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification that requires them to adhere to standards and to monitor impacts. This certification process is entirely voluntary on behalf of the licensee and can change at any time. If logging companies adhere to these standards and if WHAs function as expected, the impacts of harvesting are reduced. It is uncertain how logging outside of WHAs affect populations.

IUCN-CMP Threat 6. Human intrusions & disturbance

6.1 Recreational activities

All-terrain vehicle (ATV) use is ongoing and occurs in all areas where there is road access. ATVs cause habitat disturbance (e.g., reduce riparian vegetation leading to altered hydrological regimes and raised water temperature), mostly through increased sedimentation (see IUCN-CMP Threat 9.3). Direct mortality of frogs by ATVs is likely negligible to non-existent. Some stream crossings are armoured with rock in an attempt to reduce streambank erosion.

6.3 Work & other activities

The impacts of electroshocking which is commonly used for fish surveys in Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog habitat, are unknown. While there is evidence that there are no short-term effects on Coastal Tailed Frogs (few hours to a few days; R. Ptolemy, pers. comm., 2013), the long-term effects should be more rigorously assessed. Cossel et al. (2012, p. 362) noted that they have "held captured [Idaho Giant] salamanders [Dicamptodon aterrimus] (n > 500) for 1–3 nights after exposure to electric current and we have not observed any lingering effects, mortalities, or injuries attributable to electroshocking." They also reported one Idaho Giant Salamander "direct, immediate fatality" due to electric current in 5 years of electroshocking surveys for amphibians. Electroshocking surveys for fish have occurred throughout much of the Flathead distribution for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (see Appendix 1). Future electroshocking work is more likely to occur in the Flathead watershed than in the Yahk because both sport and conservation fishery values (particularly for Montana) are greater in the Flathead than the Yahk.

IUCN-CMP Threat 7. Natural system modifications (7.1 Fire & fire suppression)

Wildfire is the major natural disturbance in southeastern B.C. Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog range is primarily in "natural disturbance type 3" (NDT-3) forests (B.C. Ministry of Forests and Range and Ministry of Environment 2010), which historically experienced frequent wildfires ranging in size from small spot fires to large, stand-replacing fires covering tens of thousands of hectares. In areas of high burn intensity, the duff layer can be lost and the heated soils become hydrophobic. The surface erosion associated with vegetation loss and soil disturbance creates a high potential for sediment infusions into watercourses. Also, intense burns that travel to the water’s edge can cause stream temperatures to reach potentially lethal levels for tailed frogs.

Fire has been thought to be highly detrimental to tailed frogs, due to their low motility and reliance on cool water temperatures (Pilliod et al. 2003) but evidence is not clear (Hossack and Pilliod 2011). Hossack et al. (2006) found significant reductions in Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog numbers in Glacier National Park (Montana) streams following wildfire, relative to the same streams before the fires. However, Dunham et al. (2007) found no difference in Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog numbers in streams before and after wildfire events in central Idaho. In B.C., the Ram-Cabin fire in 2003 burnt through the Flathead population’s extent of occurrence. Effects of this fire appeared to be minimal to Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Cordilleran Geoscience and ESSA Technologies 2010).

Fire management may be detrimental to Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs for several reasons. If dams or ponds are established within the channel for temporary water collection, habitat may be lost or altered. Roads are often built quickly in response to fire outbreaks with little, if any, of the normal regulatory requirements. Sumps installed in streams for helicopter water collection can cause significant erosion and sedimentation. The toxicity of fire retardant chemicals (e.g., yellow prussiate of soda [YPS] or sodium ferrocyanide) may be increased by exposure to UVB radiation from sunlight (Little and Calfee 2000). However, these streams have been identified to firefighting agencies so they can minimize the building of sumps and impacts due to flyovers with retardant.

IUCN-CMP Threat 8. Invasive & other problematic species and genes (8.1 Invasive non-native/alien species)

Chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), has been implicated for widespread amphibian declines (Berger et al. 1998; Muths et al. 2003; Kilpatrick et al. 2010). Bd is widespread in B.C., but all Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogindividuals from the Yahk and Flathead watersheds that were tested for Bd were negative (35 adults, 8 juveniles, and 14 metamorphs; Govindarajulu et al. 2013). Hossack et al. (2010) tested 128 larvae and 28 metamorphosed A. montanus individuals in Montana and Idaho with no positive Bd infections. Even in drainages where Bd is known to be prevalent and infect Western Toads (Anaxyrus borealis), Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog tadpoles did not test positive for the fungus (Hossack et al. 2010).

IUCN-CMP Threat 9. Pollution (9.3 Agricultural & forestry effluents)

The primary pollutant addressed in this section is fine sediment flowing into streams mainly from forestry activities, including road construction and use. Low tadpole densities have been documented in streams channels dominated by fine sediment (Dupuis and Friele 1996; Welsh and Ollivier 1998; Diller and Wallace 1999; Adams and Bury 2000; Wilkins and Peterson 2000; Stoddard 2002). Dupuis and Friele (2002, 2004a) reported significantly lower Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog tadpole abundances in creeks with moderate to high sedimentation and embeddedness, than in creeks with lower levels. Welsh and Ollivier (1998) claimed that tadpoles require interstitial spaces as thermal and predatory refugia, and as foraging substrates, and that interstitial spaces are best available in coarse, anchored channel substrates with a low percentage of sand and pebbles.

Sedimentation can result from logging, roads (new and eroding and heavily used old roads), fires, and cattle grazing (minor source because of small scope). Both the Yahk and Flathead areas have extensive road networks as potential sources for chronic sedimentation. The risk of road failures and the number of older roads and skid trails that are not being maintained make this a chronic threat, but if the roads are decommissioned and allowed to revegetate naturally, they could become more stable. Acute sedimentation events are likely the most serious, but chronic sedimentation is poorly understood and undocumented. Range in severity scoring reflects this uncertainty.

Roads and road traffic impact tailed frog habitat by increasing direct sedimentation into channel beds (Beschta 1978; Reid and Dunne 1984). For example, long ditch runs (> 100 m) that discharge directly into creeks contribute significant sediments into channels, especially along active roads. Improperly designed, installed, and maintained stream crossings also offer significant risk to tailed frogs and their habitat due to the potential for sedimentation, movement obstructions, failures leading to debris flows and erosion, and changes to natural flow regimes (Toews and Brownlee 1981). Even properly designed and functioning road systems may negatively impact habitat because the increase in drainage efficacy due to imposition of the road network (Jones and Grant 1996; Thomas and Megahan 1998) can increase the magnitude of the peak flow on the event hydrograph. Longer-term maintenance of roads is a concern, especially in areas where responsibility changes with land tenures and activities.

Some activities associated with timber harvesting practices continue to contribute sediment into channels (Dupuis and Friele 2002, 2004a). For example, ground-based yarding from bladed skid roads on slopes greater than 40% was and is employed in both the Yahk and Flathead watersheds. In the past these skid road networks, resulting in very high levels of site disturbance, were simply abandoned and left to erode. Thus, the historical sedimentation impacts are thought to be high. Today skid roads are decommissioned to restore the hydrologic integrity of the logged slope. Although not routine, the practice of blading firebreaks along the perimeter of cutblocks can accelerate erosion, and if the cutblock is situated next to a creek, the firebreak can be a source of bank instability and sediment production.

IUCN-CMP Threat 10. Geological events (10.3 Avalanches/Landslides)

Sediment loads (see Threat 9.3 Agricultural & forestry effluents) also occur from landslide events. These may occur naturally or be induced by inappropriate forestry and road building practices and other developments. Dupuis et al. (2000) suggested that sedimentation impacts vary with the sensitivity of the channel. More specifically, impacts are greatest in creeks with higher sedimentation risks (e.g., gullies, easily friable rock types, excessively thick glacial sediments), most dramatic in creeks with high water power (steep relief, high debris flow risk, high discharge rate), and last the longest in small creeks (first to third order) with low water transport potential. Land sliding is not an issue in the moderate sloped, U-shaped sub-basins of the Yahk River watershed (Boyd, Sprucetree, and Norge creeks), but four fillslope failures were noted in the steep V-sided Upper Yahk valley (Dupuis and Friele 2002). In the Flathead the lower reach of Storm Creek and a major tributary to Cabin Creek are subject to potential land sliding and debris-flow activity. Other areas with unstable banks that may result in the introduction of abundant fine sediment and rubble into channels include the upper four kilometres of Cabin Creek (into Cabin Pass), the ephemeral headwaters of Storm Creek, and the adjacent headwaters of Leslie Creek.

IUCN-CMP Threat 11. Climate change & severe weather

Many current predictions of climate change could have negative impacts on the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog, and hamper long-term recovery efforts. In general, the timeframe for assessing the scope of the other threat categories is ten years, but climate change threats may be considered over longer timeframes and cumulative effects may be considered (Master et al. 2009). However, if climate change occurs along the lines predicted by the models below and at perhaps an increased rate, impacts may be observed sooner than anticipated. Precipitation is projected to increase significantly within the range of the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in winter, spring, and fall, while summers are likely to be drier and temperatures are projected to increase in all seasons (Murdock and Werner 2011; Murdock et al. 2013). Shifts in precipitation levels and timing, along with earlier snowmelt is anticipated to result in an earlier and higher volume spring freshet (Murdock and Werner 2011; Schnorbus et al. 2012). This shift could lead to shorter reaches of permanently watered creeks and shrinkage of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog habitat.

11.2 Droughts

Hotter, drier summers will result in less water and increase the temperature in remaining water. Extended drought periods can cause perennial creeks to retract in the headwaters, thereby leading to a reduction in the availability of habitat. There are no data quantifying the response of tailed frogs, or their perennial headwater habitats, to droughts. Populations with the smallest snowpacks are likely to be most affected because the streams may be the most vulnerable to drying out during droughts but variability in basin geomorphology and hydrology will also contribute to an individual basin’s vulnerability. Over the longer term, this could be a much higher threat.

11.3 Temperature extremes

Hotter summers and less water result in warmer water temperatures, which in particular are lethal above tolerable thresholds. Whether Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs could move to higher elevations and colonize stream reaches currently too cold is unknown. Temperatures are unlikely to exceed lethal limits in the next 10 years, especially considering that the species exists at northern limits in B.C. and frogs could benefit if their distribution is limited by low water temperatures in B.C. Over the longer term, depending on how high the temperature spikes are, extreme temperatures could become an issue.

11.4 Storms & flooding

Extreme floods can disaggregate channel bedforms (Chin 1998) and mobilize sediment. For example, Flathead River and adjacent drainages were exposed to the most severe flooding on record on June 6, 1995, accompanied by extreme bedload movements on mainstem channels. The Flathead River received 25 cm of rain in a 12-hour period and approached the 100-year flood level. Cabin Creek was most affected – an estimated 200-year flood event. Large-scale bedload movement scours the channel bed causing direct mortality of tadpoles (Metter 1968). Despite this flooding, Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog tadpoles were encountered in headwater areas during the summers of 1996 and 1998, with the same frequency of occurrence (Dupuis and Wilson 1999). Although this resilience speaks of adaptability to creek life, the lack of pre-flood data does not permit an assessment of population size change in response to extreme events. The effect of extreme flooding can be great if the event occurs during July, August, or September, when tadpoles are predominantly on the substrate surface. Occurrences in small isolated drainages could be extirpated by such a large channel disturbance if the topography is steep.

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5. Recovery Goal and Objectives

5.1 Recovery (Population and Distribution) Goal

The recovery (population and distribution) goal is to maintain stable or increasing populations of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog distributed throughout the species' range in British Columbia, including any additional populations that may be discovered.

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5.2 Rationale for the Population and Distribution Goal

The Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog is naturally rare in Canada, having a small distribution that is restricted to two unconnected watersheds, limited dispersal capabilities, slow reproductive rate, and specific habitat requirements. Therefore the goal to maintain stable or increasing populations of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog throughout the species range in B.C. is considered realistic and appropriate. The intent is to achieve this goal through habitat protection, threat mitigation, and/or restoration.

The distribution of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in B.C. has been considered relatively well known and defined because of the extensive presence/not-detected surveys that were done from 1996 to 2004. However, recent anecdotal reports in Elder and McEvoy creeks suggest that the species may have a larger range than previously thought (Appendix 1). These records need to be validated and any additional populations discovered also maintained.

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5.3 Recovery Objectives

The achievement of this recovery goal is supported by the following recovery objectives:

  1. Update distribution of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in B.C. by attempting to confirm anecdotal reports in the Flathead and conducting similar searches in other watersheds currently considered unoccupied.

  2. Implement habitat protection measures, assess effectiveness by regular monitoring, and implement adaptive management as necessary to ensure habitat protection measures are effective over the long term.

  3. Assess if populations are stable by monitoring and reporting on population size and trends at nested spatial scales, and initiate recovery actions as necessary and appropriate.

  4. Monitor and report on habitat quality trends at nested spatial scales to evaluate continuing and emerging impacts of anthropogenic and natural habitat change (e.g., climate change) that may occur even in protected areas, and initiate mitigation as appropriate.

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6. Approaches to Meet Objectives

6.1 Actions already Completed or Underway

The following actions have been categorized by the action groups of the B.C. Conservation Framework (B.C. Ministry of Environment 2010). Status of the action group for this species is given in parentheses.

Compile Status Report (complete)

  • COSEWIC report completed (COSEWIC, in press).

Send to COSEWIC (complete)

  • Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog assessed as Threatened (COSEWIC, in press).

Planning (ongoing)

  • B.C. Recovery Plan completed (this document, 2014).

Habitat Protection; Habitat Restoration (ongoing)

  • Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog is listed as a species that requires special management attention to address the impacts of forest and range activities under the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) and/or the impacts of oil and gas activities under the Oil and Gas Activities Act (OGAA) on Crown land (as described in the Identified Wildlife Management Strategy; B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection 2004).

  • Habitat protection for this species was put in place at both the stand level and the watershed level for this species:
    • stand-level: to protect riparian habitat along all perennial creeks occupied by Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog; and retain contiguous mature and old forests (or younger forests in the absence of older ones) near the core and frontier zones of key sub-basins, especially around seepage sites, in key headwater linkage areas, and in high windthrow hazard areas; and
    • watershed–level: to minimize sedimentation in Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog bearing sub-basins and maintain hydrological regimes required to support Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog.
  • Nineteen Wildlife Habitat Areas (WHAs) (Table 3) have been established for all perennial creeks inhabited by Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in the Flathead drainage (WHAs 4-046 through 4-055; Province of British Columbia 2005a); and in the Yahk drainage (WHAs 4-056 through 4-064; Province of British Columbia 2005b).

  • ll WHAs are 100-m wide buffers centered on the core stream. On each side, there is a 30-m "core area" (total 60 m both sides), followed by an additional 20-m "management zone" (40-m total both sides. These WHAs represent a total area of 1238.3 ha, split fairly evenly between the Yahk (625.1 ha) and Flathead (613.2 ha) populations. There is a broad range in area of individual WHAs, from 8.3 to 198 ha.

  • General Wildlife Measures that apply within WHAs address access issues, forest harvesting and silviculture, pesticide use, and range activity. Key measures include (not all listed):
    • minimize roads and stream-crossings;
    • avoid disturbance to stream and surrounding areas to reduce sediment loading;
    • no harvest in core areas (30-m buffer each side), including salvage;
    • partial harvesting in management zone that maintains 70% of basal area;
    • no use of chemical applications (e.g., dust stabilizers and soil binders);
    • no pesticide use; and
    • minimize livestock use of the WHA, ensuring alternate water, forage, and shade sources.
  • An ongoing program is in place to monitor effectiveness of WHAs to maintain important habitat features and, thus, viable populations of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs. Work on this effectiveness monitoring is currently underway (Cordilleran Geoscience and ESSA Technologies 2010; K. Paige, pers. comm., 2013). Activities include:
    • comparing time-constrained searches versus area-constrained searches for consistent relative abundance estimates;
    • determining effectiveness of permanent monitoring sites (sentinel sites) as indicators of population status;
    • studying stream weather regimes and their effect on tadpole abundance and distribution;
    • exploring other approaches to monitor WHA effectiveness; and
    • developing and implementing population estimation methodology.
  • The Flathead Watershed Conservation Act prohibits mining, and oil and gas activities in the area (Province of British Columbia 2011). This addressed concerns around exploration or development of "high subsurface resource potential" in the Cabin Creek area that were not included in the General Wildlife Measure for WHA 4-051 in the Flathead drainage (Province of British Columbia 2005a).

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Table 3. Details of approved Wildlife Habitat Areas for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Province of British Columbia 2013).
WHA #WHA nameForest districtPopulationEffective dateArea (ha)
4-046Leslie 1Rocky MountainFlathead29-Jul-0529.8
4-047Leslie 2Rocky MountainFlathead29-Jul-0532.6
4-048Big HornRocky MountainFlathead29-Jul-0522.3
4-049StormRocky MountainFlathead29-Jul-05117.8
4-050Little CabinRocky MountainFlathead29-Jul-0512
4-051CabinRocky MountainFlathead29-Jul-05151
4-052BurnhamRocky MountainFlathead29-Jul-05140.5
4-053Couldrey TribRocky MountainFlathead29-Jul-0523.7
4-054American CouldreyRocky MountainFlathead29-Jul-0529.3
4-055Upper CouldreyRocky MountainFlathead29-Jul-0554.2
4-056Upper YahkRocky MountainYahk29-Jul-05198
4-057NorgeRocky MountainYahk29-Jul-0591.7
4-058MalpassRocky MountainYahk29-Jul-05100.3
4-059Canyon CreekRocky MountainYahk29-Jul-0527.7
4-060Sprucetree CreekRocky MountainYahk29-Jul-05102.8
4-061NonameRocky MountainYahk29-Jul-0531.5
4-062Cedartree CreekRocky MountainYahk29-Jul-0535.6
4-063Boyd CreekRocky MountainYahk29-Jul-0529.2
4-064Screw CreekKootenay LakeYahk29-Jul-058.3
Long description for Table 3 - Part 2

Table 3 provides the Wildlife Habitat Area information for the species; it's number, name, forest district, population, effective date, and area in hectares.

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Recovery Planning Table

Table 4. Recovery planning table for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog.
ObjectivesActions to meet objectivesThreatFootnotea or concern addressedPriorityFootnoteb
Objective 1. Update distribution of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in B.C. by attempting to confirm anecdotal reports in the Flathead and conducting similar searches in other watersheds currently considered unoccupied.
  • Investigate anecdotal, extra-limital reports of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog occurrence in Elder and McEvoy creeks and other potential Flathead River tributaries.
Knowledge gapEssential
Objective 1. Update distribution of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in B.C. by attempting to confirm anecdotal reports in the Flathead and conducting similar searches in other watersheds currently considered unoccupied.
  • Conduct searches in Yahk River tributaries and other watersheds (e.g., Yahk River, Wigwam River, possibly Bloom Creek) currently considered unoccupied. Focus on areas where they have not been previously detected but where they could be present either based on anecdotal reports, habitat suitability and/or proximity to existing populations.
Knowledge gapBeneficial
Objective 1. Update distribution of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in B.C. by attempting to confirm anecdotal reports in the Flathead and conducting similar searches in other watersheds currently considered unoccupied.
  • Assess effectiveness and safety of emerging techniques such as environmental DNA (eDNA) and electrofishing to detect Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog presence.
Knowledge gapBeneficial
Objective 2. Implement habitat protection measures, assess effectiveness by regular monitoring, and implement adaptive management as necessary to ensure habitat protection measures are effective over the long term.
  • Ensure adherence to General Wildlife Measures associated with approved WHAs.
5.3, 9.3Essential
Objective 2. Implement habitat protection measures, assess effectiveness by regular monitoring, and implement adaptive management as necessary to ensure habitat protection measures are effective over the long term.
  • Monitor mining, quarrying, or petroleum exploration activities that may arise within Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog Yahk population range and work with B.C. Ministry of Mines and Energy representatives to ensure they are aware of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog locations and species requirements.
3.1, 3.2Essential
Objective 2. Implement habitat protection measures, assess effectiveness by regular monitoring, and implement adaptive management as necessary to ensure habitat protection measures are effective over the long term.
  • Continue communication with firefighting agencies to ensure streams have been identified so they can minimize the impacts due to flyovers with retardant and limit the building of sumps in the species habitat.
7.1Beneficial
Objective 2. Implement habitat protection measures, assess effectiveness by regular monitoring, and implement adaptive management as necessary to ensure habitat protection measures are effective over the long term.
  • Identify key mature (100- to 140-year-old) or old growth (> 140 years of age) forest stands adjacent to riparian zones and at seepage sites, as priorities for long-term protection through conservation covenants or other stewardship agreements with logging companies, and non-government organizations.
5.3, 9.3Necessary
Objective 2. Implement habitat protection measures, assess effectiveness by regular monitoring, and implement adaptive management as necessary to ensure habitat protection measures are effective over the long term.
  • Where there is an absence of mature and old forests to provide headwater linkages, retain younger forests as future old-growth recruitment.
5.3, 9.3Necessary
Objective 2. Implement habitat protection measures, assess effectiveness by regular monitoring, and implement adaptive management as necessary to ensure habitat protection measures are effective over the long term.
  • Develop watershed-specific hydrological green-up plans for sub-basins that contain all or part of key Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog occurrences. Plans should take into account influential parameters such as elevation, aspect, and slope, and emphasize cutblock size and tree retention.
5.3, 9.3Necessary
Objective 2. Implement habitat protection measures, assess effectiveness by regular monitoring, and implement adaptive management as necessary to ensure habitat protection measures are effective over the long term.
  • Implement long-term protection through conservation covenants or other stewardship agreements.
AllBeneficial
Objective 3. Assess if populations are stable by monitoring and reporting on population size and trends at nested spatial scales, and initiate recovery actions as necessary and appropriate.
  • Develop population estimation methodology at nested spatial scales (i.e., stream reach, sub-basin, watershed).
AllEssential
Objective 3. Assess if populations are stable by monitoring and reporting on population size and trends at nested spatial scales, and initiate recovery actions as necessary and appropriate.
  • Estimate population size for each occurrence every 10 years.
AllEssential
Objective 3. Assess if populations are stable by monitoring and reporting on population size and trends at nested spatial scales, and initiate recovery actions as necessary and appropriate.
  • If population size decreases at any occurrence, investigate causes (e.g., reconsider impacts of chytridiomycosis, habitat change in adjacent areas) and develop appropriate response.
8.1+Essential
Objective 4. Monitor and report on habitat quality trends at nested spatial scales to evaluate continuing and emerging impacts of anthropogenic and natural habitat change (e.g., climate change) that may occur even in protected areas, and initiate mitigation as appropriate.
  • Monitor for declines in habitat quality that may occur within protected (WHA) Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog habitat due to activities outside protection zone, such as harvesting of upland and upstream forests
AllBeneficial
Objective 4. Monitor and report on habitat quality trends at nested spatial scales to evaluate continuing and emerging impacts of anthropogenic and natural habitat change (e.g., climate change) that may occur even in protected areas, and initiate mitigation as appropriate.
  • Monitor for emerging global threats such as emerging infectious diseases (e.g., chytridiomycosis) that may impact the species even in protected areas.
8.1Beneficial
Objective 4. Monitor and report on habitat quality trends at nested spatial scales to evaluate continuing and emerging impacts of anthropogenic and natural habitat change (e.g., climate change) that may occur even in protected areas, and initiate mitigation as appropriate.
  • Monitor for abiotic and biotic changes at Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog locations caused by global climate change as these impacts may cause population declines even in areas with intact and effective habitat protection from proximate anthropogenic activities.
11Beneficial
Long description for Table 4 - Part 2

Table 4 lists the four recovery objectives. The actions to meet these objectives are then listed along with the threat or concern addressed and their level of priority.

Note a of Table 2

Threat numbers according to the IUCN-CMP classification (see Table 2 for details).

Return to notea referrer of table 2

Note b of Table 2

Essential (urgent and important, needs to start immediately); Necessary (important but not urgent, action can start in 2–5 years); or Beneficial (action is beneficial and could start at any time that was feasible).

Return to noteb referrer of table 2

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6.2 Narrative to Support Recovery Planning Table

Significant effort and cost have gone into identifying Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog range within B.C. and description of the species’ habitat requirements. However, recent anecdotal reports of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs on the eastern section of the Flathead need to be verified.

Reliable and reproducible population size and trend estimation techniques to assess stability of existing populations and effectiveness of existing habitat protections are essential. To date, survey and monitoring techniques have focused on visual searchesFootnote6 (K. Paige, pers. comm., 2013). Standard protocols for occupancy and relative abundance trend estimation are currently being assessed. Two emerging techniques may be used to increase detectability in low abundance or difficult to search streams. Electrofishing techniques used for stream surveys have been suggested as one potential method (Cossel et al. 2012; R. Ptolemy, pers. comm., 2013). Observations of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog from McEvoy and Elder creeks in the Flathead River watershed were made during electrofishing surveys (Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, unpubl. data 2013). The other emerging technique is environmental DNA (eDNA) (Ficetola et al. 2008; Thomsen et al. 2012). This method has been effective for stream amphibians, including Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Pilliod et al. 2013). The testing of these two techniques is considered essential as they may enable the detection of new Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog populations, which could expand the current known range of the species in B.C.

Significant and very detailed effort has gone into developing an approach and protocols for effectiveness monitoring of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog WHAs (see Cordilleran Geoscience and ESSA Technologies 2010). Further monitoring and reporting should be completed to confirm WHAs are effective.

In the absence of mature and old forests, younger forests should be retained at these headwater linkages as future old-growth recruitment. Old-growth management in headwaters will contribute towards maintaining a prolonged summer freshet. Flows can also be maintained by developing hydrological green-up plans for sub-basins that contain all or part of key Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog occurrences. These plans must be watershed-specific, taking into account such influential parameters as elevation, aspect, and slope; they must also emphasize cutblock size and tree retention.

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7. Information on Habitat Needed to Meet Recovery Goal

Threats to Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog habitat have been identified. To help facilitate the actions to meet the recovery (population and distribution) goal for this species, biophysical attributes that are required by Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog have been described and locations of survival/recovery habitat have been geospatially described on the landscape.

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7.1 Description of Survival/Recovery Habitat

The habitat used by Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog across its global range has been documented in a number of studies (see Section 3.1).

7.1.1 Biophysical Attributes

Biophysical attributes that are required by Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog are described as follows:

Eggs and tadpoles require:

  • very low sediment levels;
  • permanently flowing water;
  • cascade streams with a step-pool morphology combined with stable bedform substrates that offer pore-space refugia during both low water and flooding events; and
  • suitable stream temperatures:
    • between 5 and 18.5oC for eggs
    • between 9 and 16oC for tadpoles.

Post-metamorphic frogs require:

  • suitable habitat in which to deposit eggs (as above);
  • suitable habitat for foraging, hibernating, mating, and dispersal, and migration routes between watersheds, including:
    • higher elevation streams that may be too cold to support egg and tadpole development, but may provide dispersal and migration corridors;
    • riparian forest areas adjacent to stream reaches for foraging, hibernating, and dispersal;
    • appropriate upland habitat: all remaining mature (100- to 140-year-old) or old-growth (> 140 years of age) forest stands adjacent to riparian zones and at seepage sites necessary to maintain present and future riparian microhabitat conditions, and terrestrial foraging and dispersal habitats for juveniles and adults; where mature or old-growth forest stands are absent, younger forests are necessary for long-term restoration and recovery.
    • Older forests along ephemeral headwaters to provide key linkages between occurrences and subpopulations/sub-basins.

Suitable stream temperatures (i.e., < 24.1oC for adults).

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7.1.2 Geospatial Description

Wildlife Habitat Areas were established for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog based on these biophysical attributes. As such, the geospatial description of survival/recovery habitat for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog uses the polygon boundaries that have been delineated for the existing WHAs (Province of British Columbia 2005a, 2005b, 2013).

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7.2 Studies Needed to Describe Survival/Recovery Habitat

Sightings of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog that expand the species range in Canada have been reported for the Flathead River watershed (Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, unpubl. data, 2013). These reports require verification. Stream reaches where Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog is confirmed should also be included in the description of survival/recovery habitat.

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8. Measuring Progress

The following performance indicators provide a way to define and measure progress toward achieving the population and distribution goal and recovery objectives. Performance measures are listed below for each objective.

Measurables for Objective 1:

  • Reports of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in McEvoy and Elder creeks are verified by 2014.
  • Potential tributaries in the Flathead and other watersheds (e.g., Yahk River, Wigwam River, possibly Bloom Creek) are resurveyed using newer and more effective techniques by 2015.

Measurables for Objective 2:

  • Finalized WHA effectiveness monitoring protocols be in place by the 2015 field season.
  • Ongoing WHA monitoring shows no decline in Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog habitat.

Measurable for Objective 3:

  • Approved population estimation techniques in place by next COSEWIC status report (approximately 10 years after last assessment; i.e., 2024).

Measurable for Objective 4:

  • Measurables for Objective 2 cover Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog sites with WHA protection measures. At new sites and sites without WHA monitoring, a habitat quality reconnaissance should be conducted by 2019.
  • Protocols developed for assessing habitat changes arising from climate change and other emerging threats by 2020.

9. Effects on Other Species

Recovery efforts for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog are expected to benefit other species occupying similar habitats. No negative effects are anticipated. Riparian ecosystems are well documented as being very diverse and ecologically important habitats (Gregory et al. 1991). A wide variety of terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates are known to use headwater streams in this area, particularly aquatic insects (Hauer et al. 2007). Riparian zones are used by nearly 75% of B.C.'s vertebrates (Bunnell and Dupuis 1995). They are valuable to wildlife because of their high primary productivity, diversity of plant taxa, rapid growth, and abundant forage (Franklin 1988). Many species are more abundant and/or reproductively successful near watercourses than upslope (e.g., Corn and Bury 1989; Dupuis et al. 1995; Forsey and Baggs 2001; Virgos 2001; Jones et al. 2002).

Other mountain stream vertebrate inhabitants include Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus), American Dipper, and Water Shrew (Sorex palustris). Additional provincially and/or federally listed species at risk occurring within the Rocky Mountain Forest District that are closely associated with riparian or aquatic habitats are Western Toad, FisherFootnote7 (Martes pennanti), and Grizzly Bear (Ursos arctos). The Western Toad is also federally listed under SARA as Species of Special Concern. Recovery planning activities for Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog will be implemented with consideration of all co-occurring species at risk, such that there are no negative impacts to these species or their habitats.

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10. References

  • Adams, M.J. and R.B. Bury. 2000. Association of stream amphibians with climate gradients and the characteristics of headwater streams. Pages 25–31 in R.B. Bury and M.J. Adams, eds. Inventory and monitoring of amphibians in North Cascades and Olympic National Parks, 1995–1998. Final report to the Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, U.S. Department of Interior and U.S. Geological Survey.

  • Adams, S.B. and C.A. Frissell. 2001. Thermal habitat use and evidence of seasonal migration by Rocky Mountain tailed frogs, Ascaphus montanus, in Montana. Can. Field Nat.115:251–256.

  • Aubry, K.B. and P.A. Hall. 1991. Terrestrial amphibian communities in the southern Washington Cascade Range. U.S. Dep. Agric. For. Serv., Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-285.

  • B.C. Conservation Data Centre. 2014a. BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer. B.C. Min. Environ., Victoria, BC. [Accessed January, 2014]

  • B.C. Conservation Data Centre. 2014b. Species summary: Ascaphus montanus. B.C. Min. Environ. [Accessed May 7, 2014]

  • B.C. Ministry of Environment. 2010. Conservation framework. B.C. Min. Environ., Victoria, BC. [Accessed January, 2013]

  • B.C. Ministry of Environment. 2013. Approved wildlife habitat areas. B.C. Min. Environ., Victoria, BC. [Accessed September, 2013]

  • B.C. Ministry of Forests and Range and Ministry of Environment. 2010. Field manual for describing terrestrial ecosystems [PDF version] . 2nd edition. Victoria, BC. Land Manag. Handb. 25. [Accessed March, 2014]

  • B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection. 2004. Procedures for managing identified wildlife. Version 2004. B.C. Min. Water, Land and Air Protection, Victoria, BC. [Accessed January, 2013]

  • B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection. 2004. Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Ascaphus montanus) in Accounts and Measures for Managing Identified Wildlife – Accounts V. 2004. B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, Victoria, BC.

  • Berger, L., R. Speare, P. Daszak, D.E. Green, A.A. Cunningham, C.L. Goggin, R. Slocombe, M.A. Ragani, A.D. Hyatt, K.R. McDonald, H.B. Hines, K.R. Lips, G. Marantelli, and H. Parkes. 1998. Chytridiomycosis causes amphibian mortality associated with population declines in the rain forests of Australia and Central America. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 95:9031–9036.

  • Beschta, M. 1978. Long-term patterns of sediment production following road construction and logging in the Oregon Coast Range. Water Resour. Res. 14:1011–1016.

  • Biek, R., L.S. Mills, and R.B. Bury. 2002. Terrestrial and stream amphibians across clearcut-forest interfaces in the Siskiyou Mountains, Oregon. Northwest Sci. 76(2):129–140.

  • Brown, H.A. 1975. Temperature and development of the tailed frog, Ascaphus truei. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 50:397–405.

  • Brown, H.A. 1990. Morphological variation and age-class determination in overwintering tadpoles of the tailed frog, Ascaphus truei. J. Zool. (London), 220:171–184.

  • Bull, E.L. and B.E. Carter. 1996. Tailed frogs: distribution, ecology, and association with timber harvest in northeastern Oregon. U.S. Dep. Agric. For. Serv., Pac. N.W. Res. Stn. PNW-RP-497.

  • Bunnell, F.L. and L.A. Dupuis. 1995. Riparian habitats in British Columbia; their nature and role. In Riparian habitat management and research. Proc. of a workshop in Kamloops, B.C. 4–5 May, 1993. K.H. Morgan and M.A. Lashmar, eds. Special Publication of the Fraser River Action Plan, Environment Canada and Canadian Wildlife Service, Delta, BC, pp. 7–21.

  • Bury, R.B. 1983. Differences in amphibian populations in logged and old-growth redwood forest. Northwest Sci. 57:167–178.

  • Bury, R.B. 2008. Low thermal tolerances of stream amphibians in the Pacific Northwest: implications for riparian and forest management. Appl. Herpetol. 5:63–74.

  • Bury, R.B. and Corn, P.S. 1988. Douglas-fir forests in the Oregon and Washington Cascades: abundance of terrestrial herpetofauna related to stand age and moisture. In: Szaro R.C., Severson K.E., Patton D.R., editors. Management of amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals in North America. Ft Collins, CO. USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. General Technical Report RM-166. p 11B22.

  • Chin, A. 1998. On the stability of step-pool mountain streams. J. Geol. 106:59–69.

  • Claussen, D.L. 1973. The water relations of the tailed frog, Ascaphus truei and the Pacific treefrog, Hyla regilla. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 44A:155–171.

  • Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). 2000. Status report on the Tailed Frog, Ascaphus truei, in Canada. Report for the Committee on Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, Gatineau, QC.

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Personal Communications

Ted Antifeau, B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Kootenays, BC
Linda Dupuis, Ascaphus Consulting, Squamish, BC
Pierre Friele, Ascaphus Consulting, Squamish, BC
Blake Hossack, Research Zoologist, United States Geological Survey
Kathy Paige, B.C. Ministry of Environment, Victoria, BC
Ron Ptolemy, B.C. Ministry of Environment, Victoria, BC
Amber Steed, Fisheries Biologist, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Kalispell, MT

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Appendix 1

Appendix 1. Electroschocking sample sites targeting Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus) by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff between 2008 and 2012. Coloured circles indicate amphibian observations as noted.
Electroschocking

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Footnotes

Footnote 1

A "critical function zone" distance is defined as the threshold habitat fragment size required for ensuring the growth, survival, and successful reproduction of a species such that all life history stages are supported.

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Footnote 2

Meidinger and Pojar (1991).

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Footnote 3

Past threats may be recorded but are not used in the calculation of Threat Impact. Effects of past threats (if not continuing) are considered when determining long-term and/or short-term trend factors (Master et al. 2009).

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Footnote 4

It is important to distinguish between limiting factors and threats. Limiting factors are generally not human induced and include characteristics that make the species or ecosystem less likely to respond to recovery/conservation efforts.

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Footnote 5

The overall threat impact was calculated following Master et al. (2009) using the number of Level 1 Threats assigned to this species where Timing = High or Moderate. This includes 0 Very High, 1 High-Medium, 1 Medium-Low, 4 Low, and 2 Negligible (Table 2).The overall threat considers the cumulative impacts of multiple threats.

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Footnote 6

"Visual searches" here includes rock-rolling, time-constrained searches, area-constrained searches, and hand searches.

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Footnote 7

Fisher is extremely rare and possibly extirpated from areas where Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog occurs. There were occasional reports from the Yahk drainage in the early 2000s, possibly moving north from Montana, or remnants of an unsuccessful reintroduction project to the East Kootenay (Weir et al. 2003). Fisher is very unlikely to occur in the Flathead area occupied by Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog.

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