The Mississippi gopher frog was added to the endangered list in 2001. Their natural habitat is the longleaf pine forest of the Southeastern United States, but the only wild population is in Harrison County, Miss., about five hours from Memphis. Those frogs are able to breed, but a tadpole disease with a nearly 100 percent mortality rate keeps their numbers low. Between the disease and a shrinking natural habitat, the frogs face extinction.
The frog's range has declined in the past primarily due to urbanization, conversion of longleaf-pine habitat to pine monoculture plantations and agriculture, and conversion of open-canopy, temporary ponds to more permanent, closed-canopy ponds. Now, a 4,000-acres residential development has been planned for a site just 200 feet from the frog's main pond. The species is also threatened by the construction and expansion of two highways, a proposed reservoir, pesticides, and drought.
Gopher frogs require open, grassy seasonal (i.e., fishless) wetlands for successful reproduction. The severe reduction in acreage of fire-maintained open mature Longleaf Pine stands has interrupted the continuity in range of the Gopher Tortoise; there is strong evidence that the gopher tortoise and the Mississippi Gopher Frog are ecologically linked.