|The Mountain-Prairie Region|
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
Contacts: Karen Gleason 303-809-4594 (cell)
Ed Stege, Dee Dee Roberts 307-326-5662
Mary Jennings 307-772-2374, x32
Photos: e-mail Karen_Miranda-Gleason@fws.gov
Rare Wyoming Toads Found, Fish Hatchery Reintroduces More
During a spring "toad search" today at Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Laramie, Wyoming, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists counted 52 yearling and 4 adult Wyoming toads, considered one of the most endangered amphibian species in North America.
Mortenson Lake is last remaining place where this aquatic species can be found; the toad has been protected by the federal Endangered Species Act since 1984. During last years surveys at the site, 156 adult Wyoming toads were counted in the spring and 62 of the toads were found in the fall, as their dormant season was beginning.
After surveying the existing population, Service biologists involved in a captive breeding program at Saratoga National Fish Hatchery part of the Services Fisheries Program released about 1,300 dime-sized "toadlets" and another 1,900 late-stage tadpoles into the area.
The tadpoles were brought from the hatchery to the lake site earlier in the week and kept in "headstart" swimming pools of lake water, to help them acclimate to their new home in the wild. The tadpoles, which have been developing for almost 4 weeks, will change to toadlets in the lake within several days, depending upon water temperature.
Of the seven attempted breedings to date at the Saratoga National Fish Hatchery, five so far have successfully resulted in about 9,000 tadpoles; the last of those breedings, completed earlier this week, has resulted in eggs and tadpoles.
"Our multi-faceted Fisheries Program plays an instrumental role in supporting the recovery of aquatic species, be they Colorado River fishes, Wyoming toads, or warm springs riffle beetles in Montana," said Ralph Morgenweck, Director of the Services eight-state Mountain-Prairie Region. "Many people dont realize that we accomplish a lot more in Fisheries than just producing and stocking fish."
Saratoga National Fish Hatchery is one of several facilities across the nation raising Wyoming toads, all planned for reintroduction at the Mortenson Lake site. The other captive populations are being raised at the Wyoming Game and Fish Departments Sybille Research Unit and at zoos in Omaha, NE; St. Louis, MO; Toledo and Cincinnati, OH; Detroit, MI; Houston, TX; as well as the Central Park Zoo in New York City. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, CO, has also been involved in the breeding program.
"We dont want to put all of our eggs in one basket," said Mary Jennings, Toad Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The current total broodstock population of Wyoming toads in captivity is about 200.
In addition to the multi-program involvement within the Service by its Fisheries, Ecological Services, and Refuges staffs, a partnership with Wyoming Game and Fish, University of Wyoming, and American Zoological Association has been implementing the Wyoming toad recovery plan. Conservation measures include improving the survival rate at reintroduction sites and eliminating threats and further habitat degradation in the wild.
"We are doing everything we can, working in partnership with other agencies and organizations, using the best science available, to recover this species," said Morgenweck. "We are facing quite a challenge, even with such a successful captive breeding program."
The Wyoming toad was discovered in 1938 and is thought to be a glacial relic found only in the Laramie Basin. It originally lived at many sites in the floodplains of the Big and Little Laramie Rivers. Due to changes in the toads habitat caused by irrigation, by 1980 only one population of the toads remained.
"Our fight to save the Wyoming toad underscores the need for public and private land owners to work together. By implementing appropriate conservation measures for other species in advance of such a dire crisis, we can avoid reaching these points of possible no return," said Morgenweck.
Staff at the Saratoga National Fish Hatchery also assisted Wyoming Game and Fish in a search for boreal toads yesterday on national forest land, in an unsuccessful attempt to find wild broodstock for a new program at the hatchery. The hatchery is developing a broodstock program and on-site refugia for that declining toad species. Many species of toads world-wide have been experiencing population declines, often for reasons not yet understood by biologists.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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