Conservation Science Webinar Series

Conservation Science

The National Conservation Training Center's Conservation Science Webinar Series attempts to cut through the spin and rhetoric by providing the science behind conservation issues in the news.

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Date: November 20th, 2014
Time: 2:00-3:00PM ET

How We Can Prevent Crawfish Frogs from being Federally Listed

Captioning: Captioning Services will be available for this webinar.
Archive: If you are unable to attend this webinar, it will be recorded and posted on the Conservation Science Webinar Series Archive approximately 1-2 weeks after the presentation.
Presenter: Dr. Michael J. Lannoo, Indiana University


Dusky Gopher Frong.  Photo by Stephen KirkpatrickCrawfish Frogs (Lithobates areolatus) and Gopher Frogs are members of a 3-species clade likely representing the most threatened group of amphibians in North America—Mississippi Gopher Frogs (L. sevosus) are federally endangered and Gopher Frogs (L. capito) have been petitioned for federal listing.  Crawfish Frogs are a long-lived prairie species within the southern Great Plains and Mississippi Delta, and in these habitats are obligate crayfish burrow dwellers.  They have been extirpated from Iowa and perhaps Louisiana, are listed as endangered in Indiana, and considered a species in need of conservation in Kansas.  Within the five states east of the Mississippi River supporting Crawfish Frog populations, experts estimate fewer breeding adults (~3,500) than eggs in a single female’s egg mass (~5,500). Crawfish Frog declines are occurring in areas where other, syntopic pond-breeding amphibian populations are doing well.  Using State Wildlife Grant funding over the past six years, we have shown that Crawfish Frog declines are likely the result of upland habitat disturbance (plowing).  Crawfish Frog adults will occupy a single crayfish-dug burrow when not breeding, and following breeding will return to the same burrow year-after-year.  We know of three frogs that occupied their respective burrows for five consecutive years.  Some frogs occupy burrows over 1 km away from breeding wetlands.  Burrows protect frogs from predation and environmental extremes but also make them vulnerable to soil disturbance (plowing).  We have recommended 1 km no-plow buffers around wetlands hosting Crawfish Frogs and have stabilized populations.  The only places where such large buffers can be reasonably implemented are federal and state grasslands, and private pasturelands.  A commitment to such buffers on federal refuges supporting Crawfish Frogs would likely secure their conservation status in the short term, providing a base for repatriations and recovery to non-threatened status throughout their original range.


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Marilyn Williams, Training Technician, Conservation Science and Policy Branch, National Conservation Training Center at 304-876-7940; e-mail


Matthew Patterson, Course Leader, Conservation Science and Policy Branch, National Conservation Training Center at 304-876-7473; e-mail