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Status of the threatened Chiricahua Leopard Frog and conservation challenges in Sonora, Mexico, with notes on other ranid frogs and non-native predators

April 30, 2018

In North America, ranid frogs (Ranidae) have experienced larger declines than any other amphibian family, particularly species native to the southwestern USA and adjacent Mexico; however, our knowledge of their conservation status and threats is limited in Mexico. We assessed the status of the federally listed as threatened (USA) Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Lithobates chiricahuensis) in Sonora, Mexico, based on a search of museum specimens, published records, unpublished accounts, and surveys from 2000–2016 of 84 sites within the geographical and elevational range of the species. We also provide information on occurrence of three other native ranid frog species encountered opportunistically during our surveys. The Chiricahua Leopard Frog is known in Sonora from only 20 historical (pre-2000) localities. Searches of three historical sites did not reveal any Chiricahua Leopard Frogs; however, we found it at three previously undocumented sites in 2016, all near Cananea. To our knowledge, these records are the first observations of Chiricahua Leopard Frogs in Sonora since 1998. Differences in conservation status between the USA and Sonora are likely due to differing magnitude and distribution of threats and a comparatively aggressive recovery program in the USA. For example, key non-native predators important in the decline of the Chiricahua Leopard Frog are much less widespread in Sonora compared to the southwestern USA, but there are fewer protections and recovery actions for the frog in Sonora than in the USA. Additional surveys for the Chiricahua Leopard Frog and other amphibians in Sonora should be a priority to fully assess threats and conservation status.