Fighting to Save Colorado's Boreal Toad

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.)

Boreal toad, Colorado

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


Slow down: Toads Crossing!

Traveling with my family, we’ve come across some interesting animal crossing signs. In New Hampshire, we’ve seen moose crossing signs, in Florida, we’ve seen turtle crossing signs, and in South Africa, we’ve seen baboon crossing signs:

moose turtle images

If you live in England, however, you may see toad crossing signs at hundreds of different locations:


The Telegraph (UK) reports that from January through May, Britain’s toads will get increased protection from the Department for Transport with migratory toad crossing signs. Britain’s toads, especially the European Common Toad and the Natterjack toad, are under threat. Toads are considered a “biodiversity priority species.”

According to the Toad Crossing site, local volunteers are part of a national campaign called “Toads on Roads,” coordinated by the wildlife charity Froglife and supported by Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK, a national network of volunteer groups concerned with amphibian and reptile conservation. Volunteers wear bright jackets and help toads across the UK’s roads, in an effort to help save the animal from further declines.

I’m sure Mr. Toad would approve. On the other hand, he was a pretty crazy driver!


A Place in the Choir for the Houston Toad

Maybe it’s because my choir rehearsals begin tonight, but I was intrigued by this story about the Houston Toad—the star soprano in the frog chorus. Here’s some information about the toad from The Dallas Morning News:

In the nightly pondside chorus, the Houston toad sings soprano. Its clear, high cry, lasting as long as 14 seconds, trills above the basso profundo grunts of the less gifted. It’s a remarkable performance. But to hear it, you’ll need to travel as far as Bastrop County.

Unfortunately habitat loss and drought have driven this toad to the brink of extinction. It hasn’t been seen in the Houston area for 50 years, and is now found only in a small area of Bastrop County, Texas. In an effort to increase the numbers of the endangered toad, 5000 baby toads, raised from eggs at a Houston Zoo nursery, were released into the wild. Texas State University, the Houston Zoo, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Environmental Defense Fund, and private landowners are all working together save the Houston Toad.

I found a YouTube video so that I could hear the Houston toad sing. It’s ten minutes long, but I found it so inspiring to see how people are working to save this toad. It ends with a hopeful love scene—you’ll have to watch it to see what I mean!