The dusky gopher frog (Rana sevosa), previously known as the Mississippi gopher frog, has been found in a pond very close to the only known pond in which the frog lives and breeds, according to a press release put out by the United States Department of Agriculture. Six of the endangered frogs were found in Mississippi's Pony Ranch Pond in February, including a five-year-old female that made the nearly one mile trek from Glen's Pond, where researchers previously thought they could only be found.
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Six endangered dusky gopher frogs were found in a pond nearly a mile from the frog's last known breeding pond. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
U.S. Forest Service staff enhanced the Pony Ranch Pond, making it deeper and removing much of the wooded vegetation in hopes that the frog would thrive in the pond. The pond is also fishless and shallow, making for ideal conditions for the frog. The frogs found at the De Soto National Forest pond is a sign that the efforts made by the US Forest Service might just be working. In addition to the enhancements to the pond, the forest service also conducts prescribed burns of the area to ensure that the frog's habitat remains in a healthy state. Forest Service personnel hope to restore more than 13,000 acres of habitat over the next nine years as part of a Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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"This is a great success because the frogs found the pond on their own,” Ed Moody, a wildlife biologist with the De Soto Ranch Water District said in the press release. "We’re already planning on working on another nearby pond. There’s a good chance the frogs will start going there as well,” he said.
The habitat of the dusky gopher frog includes longleaf pine ecosystems and can be found in tree stump holes and burrows made by gopher tortoises, a threatened species. The frog's native habitat included southwest Alabama, southern Mississippi and southeast Louisiana. It has since only been found at Glen's Pond until they were found in nearby Pony Ranch Pond.
The dusky gopher frog population in the wild is currently estimated at 100 individuals as of 2011. There are approximately 1,500 gopher frogs in zoos, the result of a captive breeding effort at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska.