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The Effects of Translocation on Gopher Frog Survival and Behavior

Hand holding gopher frog

An adult gopher frog captured at a drift fence in Ocala National Forest.

Gopher frogs (Lithobates capito) frequently occupy gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) burrows and are considered gopher tortoise commensals. FWC policy previously allowed translocation of commensals along with gopher tortoises when they were removed from development sites, however concerns about impacts of translocations on commensal populations led to a temporary halt, pending further research.

FWC biologists are conducting a pilot study using radio-telemetry to evaluate survival and movement patterns of experimentally translocated gopher frogs. Genetic samples will also be collected from translocated adults and from tadpoles at the recipient-site breeding pond for several years following the translocations to identify descendants of translocated individuals. If tadpoles at the recipient site pond are found to be descended from translocated adults, this would indicate that translocated frogs survived long enough to breed and were able to navigate to a breeding pond, both key indicators of translocation success.

Results of the pilot study will help determine if gopher frogs obtained from excavated gopher tortoise burrows at development sites can be successfully translocated as a strategy to reduce mortality. Future studies will be needed to evaluate other potential risks associated with translocation, including risks of disease transmission and other negative impacts on gopher frog populations in or near recipient sites.