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A federal court has ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take steps to protect the California red-legged frog, made famous in Mark Twain's short story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."

"Twain's frog is part of our ecological, literary, and cultural heritage, but without meaningful habitat protection it may hop right into history," Robert Stact, executive director of the Calaveras County-based Jumping Frog Research Institute, said in a statement on Monday.

The red-legged frog, the largest native frog in the western United States, was once widely found throughout California but is now found only in isolated pockets along the coast and in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

In Calaveras County, about 95 miles east of San Francisco, the frog has not been seen for several decades, the victim of dam construction, agricultural development, and residential building.

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