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.

2019 Season Summary

This spring 16 docents (6 new and 10 returning) spent a total of 172 hours protecting yellow-legged frog breeding habitat at Little Carson Falls. Volunteers shared information about the frogs with 80 percent of the 607 visitors they encountered. Out of 44 possible weekend shifts during the season 61% 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 spent over 2,300 hours at Little Carson Falls and informed more than 8,200 visitors about the vulnerability of frogs and their habitat at Little Carson Falls.

During their surveys in 2019 GANDA, reported 37 adult males, 22 adult females, and 18 unknown adults in Little Carson Creek. 12 egg masses were documented at the falls. 2019 had only 73 dogs reported at the falls, and even fewer off leash or in the water than in previous years. When considering egg mass numbers found over a 15-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: Peggy Della Valle, Lorri Gong, Jeff Schoppert, Rob Ruiz, Frederic Leist, Petey Knudsen, Tatiana Manzanillo, Cindi Darling, James and Ethan Fair, Marguerite Murphy, Janet Bodle, Rich Cimino, Pierre Minhondo, Jasmine Wallsmith, and Sara Leon Guerrero. Thank you all for all the hard work that you did this year. The information obtained is invaluable, and we hope to be lucky enough to work with you all again in 2020.  

View the full report prepared by AmeriCorps Watershed Steward Alexander Johanson: Frog Docent Season Summary 2019.