(CBS4) – The Denver Zoo and Colorado Parks and Wildlife are working together to save the endangered boreal toad. A team of experts from the zoo picked up 95 of the toads from the Native Aquatic Species Restoration Facility last month. That facility is in Alamosa.
Those toads have now settled into a specially-designed facility at the zoo. They are now in brumation which is a natural state of inactivity during winter months. That will be followed by breeding in the spring with the goal of releasing 20,000 tadpoles into the wilderness next summer.
“Boreal toads are in a lot of trouble, but their numbers are still relatively strong even though their population is in decline,” Stefan Ekernas, Rocky Mountain/Great Plains Program Director at Denver Zoo said in a news release. “Colorado Parks and Wildlife has done a tremendous amount of work on the conservation of boreal toads for almost 30 years, and we’re excited to join in the effort to help the species make a meaningful recovery while there’s still time.”
The toads used to be common montane, or mountain slope, habitats between 7,000 and 12,000 feet in the southern Rocky Mountains but their numbers have sharply declined in the past two decades putting them on the state-endangered lists in both Colorado and New Mexico. Habitat loss and a fungal infection are blamed for the decline.
“We have had success in the past producing boreal toad eggs and tadpoles at NASRF, but it is challenging, and with the increasing need for more animals, we need to step up breeding and reintroduction efforts,” Harry Crockett, Native Species Aquatic Species Coordinator for CPW said in that release.
“This is a great opportunity for boreal toad conservation and collaboration with a strong conservation partner in Denver Zoo. We will really benefit from their expertise, experience in the conservation and breeding of boreal toads and other endangered amphibian species.”
The Denver Zoo has worked on amphibian conservation for more than 15 years. It was the first zoo in the Northern Hemisphere to successfully breed critically endangered Lake Ticaca frogs in 2018 and has sent more than 250 frogs to zoos and aquariums in the United States and European.
In 2019 it used a hormone treatment for boreal toads and which allowed more than 600 to be released in southwestern Utah. This year, it bred critically endangered Panamanian golden frogs.
The Zoo and CPW estimated it could take a number of years to get the number of boreal toads up to survivable numbers in the wild and they expect this partnership to last for that period of time.