Glen Johnson is a biological technician with the U.S. Forestry Service. In his lab was a container with a handful of frogs. He pulled one out and said, "This is a recently metamorphosed dusky gopher frog."
The frog Johnson held grew up in a breeding pond maintained by the forestry service. Rich Seigel monitors the pond. "If this was a normal year, let's say 1997 or 1998," Seigel said, "you would be standing knee deep in water right now where you are."
But almost two months of sunshine has caused the pond water to evaporate. And unless the pond gets more water, brothers and sisters of the tiny frog may become extinct. "And that is the idea," Seigel said. "Get the water levels up to a stage where the pond will function normally. And the tadpoles can complete their development."
Tubs filled with water arrived at the breeding pond just in the nick of time. In the last two weeks, the Mississippi Army National Guard has used tanker trucks and two hoses to pour 25,000 gallons of well water into the pond. The water could save the frog from endangered lists.
Forestry officials know that 86 full-grown gopher frogs live somewhere in this north Harrison County forest. Back in February and March, the adults came to the breeding pond and produced 37 egg masses. Red flags mark where the masses are. Survival of those masses is dependent on the pond staying full. That's why biological technician Abigail Dinsmore said, "We really need some young ones to get out there and get big and breed."
The Mississippi Army National Guard will pump well water into the gopher frog breeding pond through the end of June.
The gopher frog's breeding pond is right next door to the proposed planned community called the Tradition. To help out the U.S. Forestry Service, Tradition developers have co-funded a study, that will track the gopher frogs once they leave the pond.