Frog Docents

The foothill yellow-legged frog, Rana boylii, is native to parts of the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed and is listed as both a federal and state species of special concern, which means its population is declining. The foothill yellow-legged frog has disappeared from more than 45% of its historic range in Oregon and California due to:
  • Habitat loss and degradation
  • Disease
  • Introduction of exotic predators
MMWD needs help from the community to stop the decline and help restore a healthy population within the watershed. Each year, we train docents to monitor habitat conditions and to educate hikers at Little Carson Falls, a popular hiking destination located about five miles outside of Fairfax, and a breeding area for the foothill yellow-legged frog. Docents monitor the falls between March and June each year, when the eggs and tadpoles are at their most vulnerable.

Frog Docent Role

Volunteer docents are asked to commit to three four-hour shifts between February and June. No previous experience or special knowledge is required. Frog docents must be at least 18 years old and capable of strenuous hiking.

Becoming a frog docent is a great way to get outdoors, have an extraordinary volunteer experience, and contribute to public understanding and protection of this native species. Yearly training is offered in early spring.

2018 Season Summary

This spring 20 docents (6 new and 14 returning) spent a total of 210.5 hours protecting yellow-legged frog breeding habitat at Little Carson Falls. Volunteers shared information about the frogs with 77 percent of the 672 visitors they encountered.

Docents observed a total of 82 dogs at the falls this season, and 22 dogs were off-leash. More than half of the off-leash dog owners quickly leashed their dogs upon request of docents. Out of 46 possible weekend shifts during the season, 70% were covered.

The Frog Docent Program has been a great success in accomplishing its overarching goals. Since the beginning of the program in 2005, docents have volunteered over 2,900 hours and informed more than 7,700 visitors about the vulnerability of frogs and their habitat at Little Carson Falls. A record-tying number of 17 egg masses were documented at the falls in 2018. When considering egg mass numbers found over a 14-year period, a positive general trend has been observed – this is great news for our frogs and provides evidence that the docents’ efforts to protect vulnerable egg masses from disturbance truly have benefitted the population.

We owe a great deal of thanks to our passionate and dedicated volunteers, past and present. Without them, the welfare of the frogs and their habitat would be at risk and many visitors would have gone to the falls without being aware of the harm that can be inflicted upon this critical and sensitive breeding habitat as a result of people and dogs entering the pools.

We are immensely appreciative of our docents: Frederic Leist, Marguerite Murphy, Peter Suri, Lorri Gong, Rob Ruiz, Galen Peracca, Ethan Fair, James Fair, Janet Bodle, Gerry Levandoski, Cindi Darling, Cathy Borg, Amber Lancaster, Cassidy Kohnle, Ed Earle, Sarah Miller, Rich Cimino, Pierre Minhondo, Raine Matthes, and Tracy Matthes. Thank you for all your time and hard work this season!

View the full report prepared by AmeriCorps Watershed Justine Brumm: Frog Docent Season Summary 2018.