The Colorado Division of Wildlife is struggling to save a local amphibian from extinction—the four-inch boreal toad. Once abundant, it is one of many frog species worldwide threatened with extinction by the chytrid fungus, an infectious disease that is devastating amphibian populations. (See our recent post about some rececent promising chytrid fungus research.)
The federal government has refused to list the boreal toad as an endangered species, claiming it is genetically the same as a toad found throughout the West. Tina Jackson of the Colorado Division of Wildlife and other experts disagree. The toad is, however, a state-listed endangered species in Colorado and New Mexico, and a protected species in Wyoming.
The boreal toads were once common in Colorado’s Southern Rocky mountains. They were found near shallow lakes and beaver ponds at an elevation of 7,000 to 12.000 feet. Thirty years ago, the toads began to disappear. Habitat loss due to logging, grazing, recreation, and water projects contributed to their decline.
But by the late-1990s, the chytrid fungus was identified as the main threat to the toads. Several hundred toads have been raised in captivity and reintroduced to the wild, but so far these efforts have not been successful in producing breeding adults.
At two sites, in Larimer County and in Rocky Mountain National Park, a few introduced toads have survived their first few years. Some of these toads are now 3 and 4 years old, and officials will soon know if they will breed.
The agency has trained volunteers to look for boreal toads while hiking, especially in remote areas where in which toads have not been infected by the chytrid fungus. Toads reintroduced into these chytrid-free areas might have a fighting chance at survival.
For more information see:
DOW Doesn’t Want this Toad to Croak, by R. Scott Rappold, The Colora,do Springs Gazette