Mississippi Sandhill Crane Refuge is raising endangered frogs - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Mississippi Sandhill Crane Refuge is raising endangered frogs

The goal of this new project at the Sandhill Crane Refuge is to establish a breeding population of Dusky Gopher Frogs. (Photo source: WLOX) The goal of this new project at the Sandhill Crane Refuge is to establish a breeding population of Dusky Gopher Frogs. (Photo source: WLOX)
Friday morning, a team of biologists transported dozens of frogs in plastic containers placed in backpacks. (Photo source: WLOX) Friday morning, a team of biologists transported dozens of frogs in plastic containers placed in backpacks. (Photo source: WLOX)
GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) -

The wildlife refuge known for protecting the sandhill cranes, is now working with endangered frogs.

About 115 endangered sandhill cranes live on the nearly 20,000 acre Mississippi Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge in Jackson County. Now, those cranes need to make room for some new neighbors: critically endangered frogs.

"This is one of the bigger ones that's come out of the tanks," said Wildlife Biologist Angie Dedrickson, as she picked a small speckled from out of a plastic container.

Meet the Dusky Gopher Frog. Hundreds have been raised and tagged as part of a new program to establish a population of frogs at the refuge.

Friday morning, a team of biologists transported dozens of frogs in plastic containers placed in backpacks. The hike to the release pond was at a brisk pace to avoid any heat stress on the animals.

"Because we want to minimize the amount of time that we have the frogs in the backpacks," said Dedrickson, as she quickened the pace toward the pond.

At the release pond, north of Ocean Springs, portable tents are staked over the plastic containers, which sit in the pond water.

"We're acclimating them to the water temperature here in the pond, just as you would acclimate a fish to a fish tank," Dedrickson explained. "We have started releasing at the beginning of May. And we have released 1,074 meta-morphs into the release pond so far."

After 20 minutes of acclimation, the small frogs are set free at their new home.

The dusky gopher frog is declining primarily because of loss of habitat, mainly due to development. The long term goal of this project is to establish a breeding population here in the wild.

"They typically like the uplands of sandy pine flat woods. And it's just the ideal place that humans want to build too, so they're kind of interested in the same area," said Biological Research Associate John Tupy, with Western Carolina University, a partner in the project.

"There's an existing population in Harrison County, and we would like to create another population that's self sustaining in another area. It will help with the survival of the species," said Dedrickson.

The biologists are hoping the resident sandhill cranes get along with their new endangered frog neighbors. Because, you see, it would not be unusual for the cranes to have frogs for dinner.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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