Mark Twain's Frog Makes Rare Appearance
By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A threatened species of frog thought to have inspired Mark Twain's tale of "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" has been rediscovered in the county, 34 years after the frogs were last seen in the area.
The children of a cattle rancher found the California red-legged frogs while playing around watering holes on their property, wildlife officials said Tuesday. They asked that the location not be disclosed as researchers work to protect the frogs and their habitat.
A Fish and Wildlife Service biologist verified the discovery, locating one male and two female frogs in October. The last such sighting in Calaveras County was in 1969.
Robert Stack of the Jumping Frog Research Institute in Angels Camp, about 60 miles southeast of Sacramento, joked that the frogs are direct descendants of "Dan'l Webster" -- Twain's fictional frog.
The wildlife service is offering to work with nearby property owners to see if the frogs survive there as well. Stack is seeking grants to develop a captive-breeding program to protect a population he estimates at 10-20 frogs, by nurturing some of the eggs next year. He hopes to use the remnant frogs to one day repopulate the county.
As a threatened species, the frog enjoys protections that have caused some trepidation for property owners and developers who fear intrusive government oversight or a drop in land values. The wildlife service removed Calaveras County from its protection plan for the species after local officials objected.
Warren "Buck" King, the unofficial "Frogtown mayor" who managed the Calaveras County Fair and Frog Jumping Jubilee until he retired this year, led local opposition to Stack's reintroduction plans. He feared it would force landowners to kill off the competing bullfrog, brought in from east of the Rockies more than a century ago after San Franciscans devoured much of the state's red-legged frog population.
The bullfrogs since have taken over much of the red-legged frog's habitat, and are the preferred frog used at the annual jumping contest named after Twain's fictional 1865 challenge in the Angels Camp Hotel bar. Twain frequented the bar while he lived in nearby Jackass Hill.
Most remaining red-legged frogs are along California's north-central coast.
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