Modeling Colonization of a Population of Chiricahua Leopard Frogs

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Managing a species with intensive tools like reintroduction may focus on single sites or entire landscapes.  For mobile species like the federally-threatened Chiricahua leopard frog (Lithobates chiricahuensis [CLF]), both suitable colonization sites and suitable dispersal corridors between sites are needed. Following the eradication of the invasive American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) from most of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in AZ, captive CLF tadpoles were reintroduced into three stocks ponds on the refuge. Populations became established at all three reintroduction sites, followed by colonization of neighboring ponds in subsequent years. Based on this initial post-reintroduction colonization of neighboring ponds, we developed a habitat connectivity model to identify potential dispersal corridors. Next, using data on pond occupancy between 2007 and 2016, habitat characteristics, and pond isolation, we modeled predicted colonization of ponds through the valley as well as the long-term extinction risk for the metapopulation. Collectively, these efforts should provide insight into the security of CLF in the refuge and help inform other reintroduction efforts.