|Wyoming toad. Photo by Sara Armstrong/USFWS|
Tyler Abbott, Ryan Moehring and Kim Vincent share some good news for the Endangered Wyoming Toad.
The Laramie Plains of south-central Wyoming aren’t exactly what you would call prime amphibian habitat. At an elevation of more than 7,000 feet, the sun beats down ruthlessly on this arid highland. Blazing hot summers yield only to subzero winters. There are few trees for cover and the wind is as relentless as the endless hordes of hungry mosquitos.
Yet this inhospitable land is the unlikely – and last – sanctuary of North America’s most endangered amphibian, the Wyoming toad.
Once abundant on Wyoming’s Laramie Plains, the species experienced an unexplained population crash in the middle 1970s, and the last-remaining wild Wyoming toad population survives in a tiny oasis at Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge, which was established in 1993 specifically to protect the small toad. Here the toad lives in isolation—hidden from view in the shortgrass prairie communities within the river basin, in the flood plain, and in the ponds, oxbows, wetland and riparian habitats on the refuge. No good can befall the tiny toad if it wanders too far from this secluded haven.
Visual encounter surveys suggest that in that haven, though, the toad is thriving.