In mid-August, the area surrounding Baton Rouge, Louisiana received over two feet of rain, causing yet another massive flooding event in a state already overwhelmed with weather issues. Along with the 30,000 people displaced, there is another resident of Louisiana that may see its home threatened: the Dusky Gopher Frog.
In 2012, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature identified the Dusky Gopher Frog as one of the top 100 most endangered species in the world. Commonly known as the Mississippi gopher frog, this endangered amphibian was historically found across parts of southwest Alabama, southern Mississippi and southeast Louisiana. Related species of the gopher frog occur more broadly across the Southeast. The species’ current range is limited to only three ponds in south Mississippi.
In Georgia specifically, the Gopher Frog is listed as “rare”– populations in our state are only confirmed in six places. Repatriation efforts are currently underway in the Georgia DNR.
These frogs are noted for their short, stubby appearance. Their backs show dark spots, sometimes appearing to be cloudy. The gopher frog usually spends daylight hours in burrows, holes, or tunnels that are created by other animals.
Why are they notable today, among hundreds of endangered species in the Southeast? Because the gopher frog recently went to court. A land developer in Louisiana recently wanted to clear cut some 1500 forested acres in St. Tammany Parish, right in the recent swath of flooding, and a known home to the Gopher Frog. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service rejected his efforts, citing the land as crucial to the repatriation of the frog species. The landowner brought suit to a federal court to have the matter reconsidered.
Who won? The frog.
In essence, the court held that the Fish and Wildlife Service made the right decision, in saying that the land is essential for rescue of the frogs, which environmentalists say number fewer than 100 on Earth.