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Seeking info on frogs and the future of Tulare Lake
California Outdoors 1-17-24
CO Frog
A Mountain yellow-legged frog is shown in a mountain stream. CDFW Photo

Frog Hibernation

Q: Is it true that frogs hibernate during colder times of the year?

A: Black bears aren’t the only wildlife species in California that hibernate in winter months. There are 27 species of native toads and frogs in the state and many hibernate, whether in water or on land. Mountain yellow-legged frogs are a good example. To escape frigid weather, the frogs take shelter in underwater rock crevices and submerged vegetation located in deep pools, which are less likely to freeze over.

Elevation plays a big role in what time of year this happens, with frogs at higher elevations having longer hibernation periods than those at lower elevations. Once the frogs find a perfect location, they can remain there throughout winter. During hibernation, the frogs’ heart rate and metabolism slow enough that the animals don’t require food.

A common misconception is that hibernating frogs bury themselves in mud at the bottom of a pond or stream. But unlike a hibernating turtle, frogs would suffocate without access to oxygen-rich water.

Terrestrial frogs normally hibernate on land, burrowing deep into the soil and safely below the frost line.


Nonlead Ammunition

Q: I am new to hunting and understand that we need lead-free ammunition to hunt in California. For larger game, are copper-jacketed bullets with lead cores legal under the nontoxic criteria? Or do my bullets need to be 100 percent copper or fully lead-free?

A: You’ll need nonlead ammunition for any type of hunting with a firearm in California. No copper-jacketed, lead core bullets are permitted as they contain lead at their core. One hundred percent copper bullets are fine; they are the most common and commercially available nontoxic big game ammunition, but copper itself is not necessarily required. There are other nontoxic metals and alloys used for bullets, but copper remains the most popular. The best resource to be sure your hunting ammunition is lawful to use in California is found at

Specifically, Section 250.1 of Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations requires hunters to use nonlead ammunition in accordance with Fish and Game Code Section 3004.5. These regulations and code sections contain definitions that help explain California’s nonlead ammunition requirements.


Tulare Lake

Q: Is it likely that Tulare Lake will continue to exist year after year, or could it drain off and disappear again?

A: When it’s full of water, Tulare Lake in Kings County is practically the size of Lake Tahoe. The major rivers which feed Tulare Lake are dammed and diverted for agricultural and municipal water uses so the lake only fills during exceptional rain years. Tulare Lake made a dramatic reappearance last year after a heavy rainy season, and the lake is likely to remain present in 2024 with rainfall predictions once again being above average.

CDFW is deeply involved in the monitoring of Tulare Lake because of the health implications for the state’s bird populations. As a main landing spot within the Pacific Flyway, millions of waterfowl, shorebirds and other bird species are expected to spend time there. It’s because the water is stagnant and too warm in summer months that avian botulism occurs.

The disease is caused by a toxin-producing bacteria that appears naturally in bodies of water like Tulare Lake. During bacterial growth, the botulinum toxin becomes concentrated in the bodies of invertebrates, such as fly larvae, which are then eaten by waterfowl and other birds, infecting them.

The last large avian botulism outbreak in Tulare Lake happened in 1983 when approximately 30,000 birds, mostly waterfowl, died. The numbers were far more encouraging last year, with fewer than 5,000 deaths. CDFW worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s, Oiled Wildlife Care Network and California Waterfowl to quickly collect dead birds to slow the spread of the bacteria and treated more than 1,200 birds releasing nearly 900 healthy birds back into the wild.