Species Profile

Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog

Scientific Name: Ascaphus montanus
Other/Previous Names: Tailed Frog (Southern Mountain population)
Taxonomy Group: Amphibians
Range: British Columbia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2013
Last COSEWIC Designation: Threatened
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered


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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog

Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog Photo 1

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Description

Adult Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs are small frogs with a large head, a vertical pupil, broad and flattened outer hind toes and no ear drum. They vary in colour from tan or brown to olive green or red, and there is often a distinct, dark-edged copper bar between the eyes. Males have a short, conical extension of the cloaca, the source of the name “tailed frog”, which is used for copulation. The tadpoles possess an oral disc modified into a sucker for clinging to rocks in swift currents. They are mottled black and tan with a prominent, black-bordered white spot at the tip of the tail. The two species of tailed frogs, genus Ascaphus, are among the most primitive living frogs in the world and are specialized for life in fast-flowing streams. Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs are also one of the longest lived of all North American frogs and the slowest to develop, spending 3 years as tadpoles and not attaining sexual maturity until 7 – 8 years of age. (Updated 2017/06/14)

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Distribution and Population

Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs occur from extreme southeastern British Columbia south through western Montana and Idaho north of the Snake River Plain to the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon and Blue Mountains of extreme southeastern Washington. In Canada, Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs are restricted to two disjunct mountainous localities, the Flathead River watershed and the Yahk River watershed, separated by the Rocky Mountain Trench. (Updated 2017/06/14)

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Habitat

Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs are restricted to small, permanently flowing, middle elevation creeks in coniferous forest. They are most often associated with rapidly flowing, step-pool streams with streambeds composed largely of smooth rocks, cobbles and boulders, rather than silt, sand or pebbles. (Updated 2017/06/14)

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Biology

Tailed frogs have low reproductive rates compared to other frogs, laying relatively small clutches of 50 – 85 colourless, pea-sized eggs every other year. They are cold-adapted and can withstand temperatures only as high as 21°C. Adult Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs are nocturnal and extremely site-specific, generally dispersing no more than 20 m in a year. The tadpoles eat mainly diatoms scraped from submerged rocks, but transformed frogs will eat a wide variety of terrestrial arthropods. Predators of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs include American Dipper, Cutthroat Trout, Garter Snakes, and Western Toad. (Updated 2017/06/14)

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Threats

Major threats to Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs in Canada include increases in stream sedimentation, alteration of hydrological regimes, loss of riparian forest habitat and headwater linkages, stochastic environmental and demographic fluctuations due to low population size, and climate change resulting in stream habitat contraction. Human activities associated with logging, mining and road building can exacerbate these threats. Wildfires can have a significant, negative, short-term effect on abundances of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog tadpoles; how­ever, this species may be able to recover from wildfire within a decade. Epizootic chytridiomycosis disease caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis has been identified as a major threat to amphibian populations around the world, but at present there is no evidence of significant infection or disease among Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs. A ban on mining exploration and development under the Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act has reduced threats in the Flathead portion of the species’ range. (Updated 2017/06/14)

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (Ascaphus montanus) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Team

Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog Recovery Team

  • Ted Antifeau - Chair/Contact - Government of BC
    Phone: 250-354-6163  Fax: 250-354-6332  Send Email

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Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date A recovery team has been established to coordinate recovery actions for the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog and develop a recovery strategy. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Surveys indicate that there are two geographically separated populations of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog in B.C.- one in the Flathead river watershed and one in the Yahk river watershed. Intensive inventories have been conducted for both populations to define their range and their distribution within the range. Population monitoring protocols are being developed to monitor both populations and the condition of their habitat. Summary of Recovery Activities A small portion of Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog habitat in the Flathead watershed was significantly affected by wildfires in 2003. Access roads built for fire-fighting have been deactivated or stabilized in order to mimimize pollution of tailed frog streams with sediment. The effectiveness of these rehabilitation measures will be ongoing through 2005 and possibly beyond, and the recovery team may recommend further rehabilitation measures. Currently, the recovery team is developing a watershed level riparian habitat protection plan for both the Yakh and Flathead watersheds. Almost all of the frog’s habitat occurs on Crown land. Therefore, the recovery team aims to create Wildlife Habitat Areas to protect critical breeding and dispersal sites throughout these watersheds. Stream and stream-side habitat in Wildlife Habitat Areas will be protected by restricting livestock access, harvesting and mining activity.

Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

8 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog Ascaphus montanus in Canada (2014)

    Adult Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs are small frogs with a large head, a vertical pupil, broad and flattened outer hind toes and no ear drum. They vary in colour from tan or brown to olive green or red, and there is often a distinct, dark-edged copper bar between the eyes. Males have a short, conical extension of the cloaca, the source of the name "tailed frog”, which is used for copulation. The tadpoles possess an oral disc modified into a sucker for clinging to rocks in swift currents. They are mottled black and tan with a prominent, black-bordered white spot at the tip of the tail.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog (2015)

    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.

Recovery Strategies

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

    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.

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2017)

    His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of the assessments done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (2017)

    Biodiversity is rapidly declining worldwide as species become extinct. Today’s extinction rate is estimated to be between 1 000 and 10 000 times higher than the natural rate. Biodiversity is positively related to ecosystem productivity, health and resiliency (i.e. the ability of an ecosystem to respond to changes or disturbances). Given the interdependency of species, a loss of biodiversity can lead to decreases in ecosystem function and services (e.g. natural processes such as pest control, pollination, coastal wave attenuation, temperature regulation and carbon fixing). These services are important to the health of Canadians, and also have important ties to Canada’s economy. Small changes within an ecosystem resulting in the loss of individuals and species can therefore result in adverse, irreversible and broad-ranging effects.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2013-2014 (2014)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to "assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species". COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2013 to September, 2014) from November 24 to November 29, 2013 and from April 27 to May 2, 2014. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 56 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2012-2013 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 0 Endangered: 23 Threatened: 12 Special Concern: 20 Data Deficient: 0 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 56 Of the 56 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 40 that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 25 of those wildlife species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act : Terrestrial Species - January 2015 (2015)

    The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection of prohibitions and recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 521 wildlife species at risk. Please submit your comments byApril 15, 2015, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultationsand byOctober 15, 2015, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations.For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please see:Species at Risk Public Registry website

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017