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Endangered Mississippi Gopher Frog Gets Protected Habitat

By Rhonda Miller | Published 12 Jun 2012 07:59pm | comments
A Mississippi Gopher Frog in the Harrison County research lab.

More than 6,000 acres in Mississippi and Louisiana are being designated as critical habitat to save the Mississippi Gopher Frog.  MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports the frogs are unique to the Gulf Coast.

At the U.S. Forest Service research lab north of Biloxi in Harrison County,  biologist John Tupy opens a small plastic container and takes out a little, grayish-green frog with big dark eyes and long back legs.

"This guy is... he’s... usually when they’re this young they’re about 30 millimeters." "He’s cute. How old is he?" " As a frog, he is about two days old."

This is one of hundreds of the endangered Mississippi Gopher Frogs the lab is raising and releasing back into the wild.  The frogs’ main habitat is a couple of miles down the road at Glen’s Pond, which isn’t a permanent pond. It’s more of a depression in the ground that fills with rainwater, then dries up. Tupy says scientists are helping the little creatures grow from a tadpole to a frog.

"We take them from Glen’s Pond, where we raise them in the tanks, and then take them back to the lab where we weigh them, we measure them and then we mark them with a unique alphanumeric tag, so that we can track them throughout their lives."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is designating 6,500 acres in Mississippi and Louisiana as critical habitat for the frog. Tupy says the land in Harrison, Jackson, Forrest and Perry Counties, as well as Louisiana, gives the frogs more chance to survive.

"This is an animal unique to the Gulf Coast. It’s not found anywhere else in the world. Local residents could take pride in having this unique, rare species in their backyard."

The curator of reptiles and amphibians at Memphis Zoo, Steve Reichling, keeps a register of Mississippi Gopher Frogs.

"They are beautiful in that they are beautifully adapted to this environment,  the high, dry sandy lands along the Gulf Coast. It’s a not a good habitat for frogs and toads and salamanders, and there are very few species that can live in these areas as well as the Mississippi Gopher Frog can."

Reichling says there are about 900 of the frogs living in zoos across the country, and only about 200 left living in the wild in Mississippi.

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A Mississippi Gopher Frog in the Harrison County research lab.


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