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Gopher Frog Restoration

gopher frog by Dirk J. Stevenson

2010 marked a banner year for a multi-year project aimed at establishing a self-sustaining breeding population of gopher frogs at Williams Bluffs Preserve in Early County. State-listed as rare, gopher frogs depend on intact sandhill habitats where adults survive within the burrows of their namesake host, the gopher tortoise. However, these frogs also require nearby fishless wetlands where they breed and their tadpoles develop. Because of widespread upland and wetland habitat alteration throughout their range, gopher frogs are now limited to fewer than 10 sites in Georgia.froglet with elastomer mark

In 2007, DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section began a project involving the collection of gopher frog eggs from two healthy populations, rearing these to late-stage tadpoles or post-metamorphic froglets, and releasing them at an unoccupied but high quality and protected site within their historical range. This past year, in partnership with Atlanta Botanical Garden, University of Georgia, The Nature Conservancy and the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center, 1,518 juvenile gopher frogs were released, far more than had been released in any of the three previous years. Gopher frogs reach breeding maturity in two to three years. Next season should give biologists the first opportunity to document successful breeding at a repatriated site, which would be a range-wide first for this imperiled amphibian.

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