Commentary: It's trout 1, tadpoles 0

Where have all the froggies gone?

Long time passing

Where have all the froggies gone?

Long time ago

Where have all the froggies gone?

Little fishes have gobbled them every one

When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?

Sorry Pete Seeger for maligning your song, but the haunting refrain of your 1961 ballad hopped forth after reading newspaper articles detailing what a UC Berkeley biologist found about why the mountain yellow-legged frog has all but disappeared from high mountain lakes in the Sierra Nevada.

No doubt Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and others of similar ilk are disappointed that it was not agricultural pesticide runoff from San Joaquin Valley farms in those lakes above 11,000-foot elevation that has almost make the little amphibians extinct. Of course, logic would rule that out with most rational thinking people. I am still waiting to see farm runoff move 11,000 feet uphill.

The biologist, Vance T. Vrendenburg and his undergraduate assistants, found that rainbow trout are responsible for the near demise of the yellow-legged frog.

Trout eat tadpoles! Can you believe it!

For eight summers, Vrendenburg counted trout and frogs in a cluster of lakes east of Fresno in Kings Canyon National Park. He netted trout from the lakes and what few frogs that were left in the lake underwent a population explosion within three years.

There are at least 10,000 lakes in the High Sierra, Vrendenburg was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle. Ninety to 95 percent of them hold introduced trout species, but no more frogs. There may be 200 lakes that have plenty of frogs, but few or no fish.

Since the late 1880s when miners hauled fingerling trout to the lakes in cans on mule-back, trout have been introduced yearly into the Sierra Nevada lakes for trout fishermen.

Global warming, trucks rumbling down Highway 99, tractors cultivating fields near Five Points, Calif., grape growers treating for powdery mildew or dairy cattle in Tulare County are not killing off the frogs. It is the fish.

It has taken decades to discover that fact and have it printed by the prestigious National Academy of Science.

The solution? As straightforward as the problem. Take fish out of some of the High Country lakes so the frogs can repopulate. That is what the national park service plans to do from 11 high-elevation lakes over the next 10 years. What do you bet this will be successful?

The trout fishermen support that idea. Of course not all environmentalists are happy. One article talked about the trout-eat-tadpoles finding giving credence to a lawsuit. Who are they going to sue, a tank of trout or the ancestors of the guy who owned the mules who hauled the first trout to the high country?

The story is comical as well as refreshing in this environmentally-charged world where driving, working, breathing, walking and existing are somehow detrimental to something.

It seems to be a story that makes everyone happy, not the least of which are remaining yellow-legged frogs. They are ecstatic that a UC Berkeley biologist and his students spent eight summers in some of the most beautiful country on this planet discovering that trout eat tadpoles and when there are more trout than tadpoles, tadpoles lose.

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