Crawfish Frog Update
Today at the refuge, the day was spent checking all the ponds for development on Crawfish Frog egg masses. At all but a few locations the egg masses were developing nicely. There was an exuberant amount of free swimming tadpoles. For those who might not know, the Crawfish Frog is a state endangered amphibian, and Big Oaks NWR has the largest population of Crawfish Frog in the state. To help improve the Crawfish Frog's chances of a comeback, Big Oaks has been implementing conservation management strategies. One strategy has been to boost the population of Crawfish Frogs at Karn's Pond (located in Area 46). A drift fence is put up each breeding season around the pond, with pitfall traps scattered around the inside and outside of the fence. By doing this, the biologists are able to know how many Crawfish Frogs are entering and leaving, what sort of condition the frogs are in, and reduce competition by not allowing other Rana frogs (such as Southern Leopard Frogs and Pickerel Frogs) into the Pond. Because of these efforts, the population at Karn's Pond is expanding at a beautiful rate! Another management strategy has been to place mesh cages in some of the other ponds. This prevents fish and turtles from eating the eggs, giving the Crawfish Frog tadpoles a fighting chance. A third strategy is to move egg masses from a highly successful pond (like Karn's Pond) to a pond that has not been to successful for the year. This does two things: 1) it provides genetic variability among the ponds; and 2) it gives an unsuccessful pond a chance to be successful, providing the Crawfish Frogs more locations to breed. With all our efforts this year, I am pleased to see that the egg masses have developed and there are some many Crawfish Frog tadpoles swimming around! Stay tuned for the success of the tadpoles!