Grant aims to re­store rare frog

Money to pur­chase larger tad­pole habi­tats

The Covington News - - Agriculture & Outdoors -

SO­CIAL CIR­CLE — A frog­mon­i­tor­ing pro­gram will be re­ceiv­ing some much-needed funds to im­prove a scarce frog’s chances for sur­vival.

The Ge­or­gia De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources (DNR), At­lanta Botan­i­cal Gar­den and The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy of Ge­or­gia con­duct The Gopher Frog Head­start­ing Project to help Ge­or­gia’s rarest frog species.

Grants to­tal­ing $1,890 will cover the cost of a new, larger and more ef­fec­tive rear­ing sys­tem for rais­ing gopher frog tad­poles. Per­ma­nent 110-gal­lon reser­voirs and fil­ter sys­tems are be­ing in­stalled at the At­lanta Botan­i­cal Gar­den to help rear tad­poles.

“This will al­low us to raise a larger num­ber of tad­poles more ef­fi­ciently and un­der bet­ter con­di­tions,” said Ron Gagliardo, am­phib­ian con­ser­va­tion co­or­di­na­tor at the At­lanta Botan­i­cal Gar­den.

Gopher frogs have been doc­u­mented at fewer than 10 sites in Ge­or­gia.

This unique frog with a large head and an ap­petite for other frogs is found al­most ex­clu­sively in the Coastal Plain’s lon­gleaf pine ecosys­tem. Gopher frogs live in gopher tor­toise bur­rows, stump holes and other un­der­ground homes in flat­woods, sand­hills and pine scrub ar­eas.

The species faces sig­nif­i­cant threats, such as habi­tat de­struc­tion and fish stocked in breed­ing ar­eas, and is con­sid­ered a high­pri­or­ity am­phib­ian by Ge­or­gia’s Com­pre­hen­sive Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Strat­egy, a guide for con­ser­va­tion.

Ap­prox­i­mately 68 tad­poles were re­leased into a pond in Wil­liams Bluffs Pre­serve in Early County in 2007. The 1,980acre tract of land owned by The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy is the only des­ig­nated re­cip­i­ent site in Ge­or­gia for gopher frogs at this time.

Por­tions of seven egg masses have been col­lected this year, re­sult­ing in nearly 1,700 tad­poles. They are be­ing reared at the At­lanta Botan­i­cal Gar­den for even­tual re­lease.

Groups con­tribut­ing funds for the new rear­ing sys­tem in­clude the Ge­or­gia Her­peto­log­i­cal So­ci­ety, the As­so­ci­a­tion of Zoos and Aquar­i­ums’ Am­phib­ian Taxon Ad­vi­sory Group and Nip­muc Re­gional High School in Up­ton, Mass.

In­for­ma­tion on how to help con­serve Ge­or­gia’s nongame wildlife — such as through buy­ing a nongame wildlife li­cense plate or mak­ing a do­na­tion to the “Give Wildlife a Chance” state in­come tax check­off — are avail­able at www.geor­giaw­ildlife.com.

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