Innovative Tagging Methods to Study Behavior and Conservation

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Gopher frog equipped with a telemetry tag ready for release

Proactive research of declining species is paramount to their conservation. The Bears Bluff National Fish Hatchery recently partnered with the University of Georgia, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and the Riverbanks Zoo to conduct a research project comparing release methods using seventy-four gopher frogs produced at Bears Bluff. Fifty-four frogs were released into one of eighteen predator exclusion pens (3 frogs/enclosure). They will be held in these enclosures for up to three months to allow for acclimation to their new environment, providing a “soft release” for the frogs. The remaining twenty frogs were fitted with telemetry tags and released directly into the environment with no acclimation period, for a “hard release”.

Movements of tagged frogs will be monitored up to five days a week for three weeks, while the health of frogs held in pens will be periodically monitored with burrow cams until the enclosures are removed. This work will gather crucial information about gopher frog behavior, movement patterns, habitat use, and survival after release, as well as valuable insight into two release methods. These results can guide conservation efforts and aid in the protection of gopher frog populations. Continued research and propagation initiatives are crucial to ensuring the long-term survival of this species. In addition to the frogs used for this research, Bears Bluff has also released nearly 500 gopher frogs into the Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina this year.  

Predator exclusion pen set up in the gopher frog study area.

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