- Associated Press - Saturday, June 13, 2015

GAUTIER, Miss. (AP) - A south Mississippi wildlife refuge has been releasing hundreds of critically endangered frogs into the wild, hoping they will repopulate inside the refuge.

The Sun Herald (https://bit.ly/1IR9WVf) reports that workers at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge in Gautier have released 1,074 dusky gopher frogs into the refuge since May.

The dusky gopher frog, considered a “critically endangered” animal, has been on the endangered-species list since 2001.

“We are taking an existing population of the frogs from Saucier in Harrison County and repopulating them elsewhere,” wildlife biologist Angie Dedrickson said. “By bringing the frogs to Jackson County, we now have two critically endangered species on our South Mississippi refuge — we also house the endangered Mississippi sandhill crane.”

Dedrickson said frogs are hatched in Saucier and the tadpoles are transferred to the refuge, where they are divided among 50 tanks containing water, pine straw and sweet gum leaves in an effort to re-create their habitat.

After the tadpoles have matured into frogs, they are taken in individual containers to Vancleave and released into the wild. Each frog is tagged with a tracking device on its left leg before it is placed in the pond so Dedrickson and her staff can follow the progress of the amphibians.

The process from birth to release is a only a few months, but Dedrickson said it will be a few years before the success of the project can be measured.

“The male frogs are reproductively mature at the age of 1,” she said. “However, the females do not reproductively mature until between the ages of 2 and 4. We will really not know how well the frogs are doing at repopulating the area for at least two years.”

Although the dusky gopher frog has a long list of natural predators that include spiders, snakes and cranes, Melissa Perez, Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge ranger, said the frog’s greatest foe is a shrinking natural environment.

“The wet-pines savannah that makes up our refuge is a critically endangered area,” Perez said. “It’s not a coincidence that the frog population continues to decrease as the refuge grows smaller.”


Information from: The Sun Herald, https://www.sunherald.com

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