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HERPS OF THE SOUTHEAST VIRTUAL WALK
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Stop #24: DeSoto National Forest, MS
Featured Herp: Gopher Frog (Rana sevosa)

 
gopher frog
Gopher frog (Rana sevosa)

GOPHER FROG: Mississippi's Most Endangered Frog
text by Stephen Richter and Rich Seigel

The Mississippi or "dark" gopher frog (Rana sevosa) is a rare and poorly studied amphibian whose historic geographic range once extended throughout the southeastern longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) forests of Mississippi and Louisiana. The number of breeding populations of gopher frogs has been drastically reduced; gopher frogs are now considered extinct in Louisiana, and although they were once abundant in coastal Mississippi, there is only a single pond in which they are now known to breed. Glenís Pond is located in Desoto National Forest in Harrison County where Glen Johnson, for whom the pond is named, and others found it while conducting surveys in Mississippi for gopher frogs. They found no other breeding sites for this rare frog and none have been found since.

Gopher frogs are secretive, winter-breeding frogs that breed only in very characteristic breeding sites throughout their range. The breeding ponds are typically located in upland, longleaf pine forests; they are relatively shallow, temporary ponds which lack fish and other large larval predators. Gopher frogs do not remain in these ponds throughout the year; they only come to them to breed and therefore must migrate to these sites from their non-breeding season habitat. During the non-breeding season, the frogs take residence in gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) burrows, old mammal burrows, and holes associated with dead trees. Because gopher frogs utilize these two very different habitat types, we must not only consider their breeding sites but also the area surrounding these ponds when planning for their conservation.

southeastern distribution

Glenís Pond is an ephemeral, ridge-top pond located in a long-leaf pine forest that fills through rain and runoff from the surrounding area. This type of breeding habitat is now very rare in Mississippi. Because they are located on ridge tops, roads are often built through these ponds and housing developments are common. In addition, the suitable habitat for gopher frogs has been greatly diminished due to intense logging and subsequent development of slash pine plantations in the long-leaf pine region. Gopher frogs are not only threatened by habitat loss, but by habitat fragmentation; that is, breeding sites are isolated due to development and roadways which can also lead to road mortality.

Glenís Pond is the only pond of its type in southern Mississippi and a large number of amphibians utilize this breeding site, including 13 species of frogs (including the rare ornate chorus frog, Pseudacris ornata) and one salamander. In addition, four other species of frogs, two species of salamanders, four species of turtles, fifteen species of snakes, and six lizard species have been found in and around Glenís Pond. Below is a complete list of the amphibians and reptiles that have been found at the pond:

AMPHIBIANS

Frogs  
*Southern Cricket Frog (Acris gryllus)
*Southern Toad (Bufo terrestris)
*Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis)
Bird-voiced Treefrog (Hyla avivoca)
Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor/chrysoscelis)
*Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea)
*Pine Woods Treefrog (Hyla femoralis)
*Barking Treefrog (Hyla gratiosa)
*Squirrel Treefrog (Hyla squirella)
*Southern Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)
*Southern Chorus Frog (Pseudacris nigrita)
*Ornate Chorus Frog (Pseudacris ornata)
*Gopher Frog (Rana sevosa)
Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)
Green Frog (Rana clamitans)
*Southern Leopard Frog (Rana utricularia)
*Eastern Spadefoot (Scaphiopus holbrookii)
 
Salamanders  
*Mole Salamander (Ambystoma talpoideum)
Dwarf Salamander (Eurycea quadridigitata)
Mississippi Slimy Salamander (Plethodon mississippi)
 
 
*Amphibian species known to breed in Glenís Pond

REPTILES

Turtles  
Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
Chicken Turtle (Deirochelys reticularia)
Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum)
Eastern Box Turtle (Terrepene carolina)
 
Snakes  
Eastern Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorous)
Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor)
Gray Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta)
Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platyrhinos)
Speckled Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula)
Eastern Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum)
Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata)
Diamondback Water Snake (Nerodia rhombifer)
Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus)
Glossy Crayfish Snake (Regina rigida)
Redbelly Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata)
Southeastern Crowned Snake (Tantilla coronata)
Eastern Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis sauritus)
Rough Earth Snake (Virginia striatula)
Smooth Earth Snake (Virginia valeriae)
 
 
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