A Talk on the Wild Side.
Adult male dusky gopher frog. Photo by John Tupy
The dusky gopher frog is a native to the longleaf pine forests of the southeastern United States. This federally endangered animal depends on temporary shallow ponds embedded in this landscape for breeding. Unfortunately, much of the open longleaf pine habitat where rainwater collects to create the ideal setting for breeding has disappeared as a result of development and fire suppression. For years, the survival of the frog has primarily depended on a single breeding pond – Glen's Pond – located within Mississippi’s DeSoto National Forest. This site has been monitored continuously since it was discovered in 1988. Since then, severe drought events and a disease outbreak in 2003 resulted in several back-to-back years where there was little to no breeding success. With few frog tadpoles surviving to adulthood, the species was in jeopardy.
A captive rearing and release program has helped bolster the wild dusky gopher frog population. By hatching egg masses brought in from the wild and raising the tadpoles in the safety of a lab, staff in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mississippi Ecological Service’s Field Office ensures the breeding population at Glen’s Pond recruits healthy adult frogs each year, even when various factors prevent the natural development of wild tadpoles into frogs.