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The story of the snoring frog: Restoring dusky gopher frog habitat

After 30 years of silence, the dusky gopher frog was re-discovered, kicking off a collaboration that would span decades and bring multiple organizations together to develop a breeding program and restore habitat for the endangered species.

Close up of a dusky gopher frog, mottled with dark spots and brown stripes that go down its body.
The dusky gopher frog only breeds on rainy winter nights in ephemeral ponds that meet very specific criteria. USDA Forest Service photo by Glen Johnson.

In 1987, SRS technician Glen Johnson heard the call of the dusky gopher frog, which sounds like a snore. Before Johnson’s finding, the dusky gopher frog hadn’t been seen or heard from since the 1950s. But in 1988, Johnson found a breeding population at a pond on the De Soto National Forest in Mississippi. Ever since then, the USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Carolina University, and many other partners have worked together on behalf of the dusky gopher frog.

The pond has become the epicenter of an extensive restoration effort. Over the years, researchers have studied two major aspects of the frogs’ lives – the longleaf pine forests they live in during most of the year, and the ponds they breed in. For example, studies showed that frogs need sunny ponds. Without sunlight on the pond, the water will get too cold, and there won’t be enough aquatic vegetation.

Land managers and experts on the De Soto National Forest are using the information to restore habitat for the dusky gopher frog – and the red-cockaded woodpecker, the pine snake, and others that depend on healthy longleaf pine forests. The collaboration shows how research and partnerships can lead to changes on the landscape and new habitat for the animals who call it home.

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Principal Investigators
Chuck Burdine, Biological Science Technician
Glen Johnson (Retired)
C. Dana Nelson, Project Leader
4160 - Forest Genetics and Ecosystems Biology
Research Partner
De Soto National Forest, Mississippi
External Partners
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks
The Nature Conservancy Mississippi