Skip to main content

Gopher frog

Lithobates capito

Listing Status

  • Federal Status: Not listed
  • FL Status: No longer listed in Florida as of January 11, 2017, but is part of the Imperiled Species Management Plan.
  • FNAI Ranks: G3G4/S3 (Globally: Insufficient Data for ranking but ranges from Rare to Apparently Secure/State: Rare)
  • IUCN Status: NT (Near Threatened)

Appearance

The gopher frog is a stout-bodied frog that reaches a length of two to four inches (5.1-10.2 centimeters).  This species has a cream to brown-colored body with irregular dark spots on its sides and back, a large head, warty skin, rounded snout, short legs, and a light brown ridge found behind its eyes (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001). 

Life History

The diet of the gopher frog primarily consists of invertebrates and anurans (frogs and toads) (Godley 1992).

The breeding season differs by geographical location, as the North Florida population breeds from February to June and the Central and South Florida population during the summer.  Gopher frogs will travel long distances (up to a mile or more) to breed in temporary breeding ponds.  Females lay eggs in shallow water in a single mass that can contain 3,000 to 7,000 eggs, which attach to vegetation when released.  Once hatched, the tadpoles metamorphose in three to seven months.  Gopher frogs usually reach sexual maturity at two years of age (Godley 1992, Palis 1998).

The call of a gopher frog is a deep guttural snore (the sound is developed in the back of the mouth) and heavy rains at any season may stimulate choruses, with many of them calling at once.  Sometimes they call from underwater, so as not to attract predators, creating a noise that is detected only by a hydrophone.

Habitat

gopher frog map

The gopher frog inhabits longleaf pine, xeric oak, and sandhills mostly, but also occurs in upland pine forest, scrub, xeric hammock, mesic and scrubby flatwoods, dry prairie, mixed hardwood-pine communities, and a variety of disturbed habitats (Enge 1997).  This species inhabits gopher tortoise burrows, which is how its name originated.  Gopher frogs can be found throughout Florida (Map Data from: FNAI, museums, and gopher frog literature).

Because of habitat destruction, the gopher frog is very rare in its traditional southern range. It is listed as a species of special concern in Florida.

Threats

The main threat to the gopher frog is the destruction of its habitat, especially breeding ponds.  Exclusion and suppression of fire from wetlands often leads to degradation of breeding ponds through shrub encroachment, peat buildup, and increased evapotranspiration (evaporation of surface water and release of water vapor) from plants shortening the hydroperiods (LaClaire 2001).  Coverage of grassy emergent vegetation decreases and peat buildup may acidify the water past tolerance levels of the gopher frog (Smith and Braswell 1994).  Another threat to gopher frog populations is the introduction of game and predaceous fish into formerly fish-free wetlands during natural flooding events.  The introduction of these fish causes increased predation of the gopher frog’s eggs and tadpoles.  The gopher frog also faces threats of disease, such as contraction of the Anuraperkinsus mesomycetozoan (yeast-like) pathogen - an infectious parasite.

Conservation and Management

The gopher frog is protected from take by 68A-26.02, F.A.C and 68A-4.001, F.A.C. 

Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule.

Biological Status Review (BSR)

Supplemental Information for the BSR

Species Action Plan

References

Bishop, D. C.  2005.  Ecology and distribution of the Florida bog frog and flatwoods salamander on Eglin Air Force Base.  Ph.D. dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg. 175 pp.

 

Florida Natural Areas Inventory.  2001.  Field guide to the rare animals of Florida.
https://www.fnai.org/FieldGuid/pdf/Lithobates_capito.pdf

 

Gorman, T. A.  2009.  Ecology of two rare amphibians of the Gulf Coastal Plain. Ph.D.   dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg. 178 pp.

 

Jackson, D. R.  2004.  Florida bog frog: management guidelines for species at risk on   Department of Defense Installations.  NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. p. 164.

 

Moler, P. E.  1992.  Florida bog frog.  Pages 30-33inP. E. Moler, editor.  Rare and endangered biota of Florida, vol. III: Amphibians and Reptiles. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA.  291pp.

 

Printiss, D., and D. Hipes.  1999.  Rare amphibian and reptile survey of Eglin Air Force Base,  Florida.  Final Report, Florida Natural Areas Inventory, Tallahassee, Florida, USA.  57 pp.

 

University of Florida Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation.  (n.d.). Florida's Frogs.  Retrieved April 15, 2011, from UF Wildlife-Johnson Lab: http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/frogs/floridabogfrog.shtml