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January 2023


Animal experts at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher (NCAFF) are watching the skies for rain in hopes of seeing a good crop of gopher frog egg masses this February. The team focuses on this state endangered species as part of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission gopher frog head-starting initiative.


To head-start young frogs, the team collects small portions of each egg mass and raises them in human care for future release. NCAFF aquarists suggested the plan after monitoring egg masses in Holly Shelter Game Land for several years. They noticed the numbers of frogs appeared low—as few as six to eight egg masses deposited in some years. Drought conditions meant that the pond had just enough water to stimulate the frogs to breed, but it would not hold water long enough for the tadpoles to fully develop.


The gopher frog (Rana capito) was once found in many ponds across the southeastern Coastal Plain, ranging from North Carolina down through South Carolina and Georgia, across Florida and into Alabama. However, many of these wetlands, or the uplands they are associated with, are now gone. Historically found in at least 23 populations in North Carolina among 53 ephemeral ponds, the species is now only found in seven populations, with only 14 of those historical ponds still being used by gopher frogs.

Most of these ponds have been destroyed or altered significantly; for example, they have been deepened and stocked with fish.


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1-800-832-FISH (3474)