Spring Storm in the Great Basin Red Cliffs Desert Tortoise Reserve March Morning on the Platte River After a Spring Storm in the Great Basin Hunting Upland Birds at Kingsbury Lake Waterfowl Production Area Sandhill Migration on the Platte River Badlands Sunrise The Green River at Ouray NWR North Park Lupines Moab Sunset
News & Releases
Mountain-Prairie Region

News Release

Using Fire to Save a Toad

For Immediate Release

August 6, 2013

Prescribed burning is being used to help recover the endangered Wyoming toad at Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Wyoming. As part of the effort, almost 40,000 captive-bred tadpoles and toadlets have been released at the refuge and other safe-harbor sites. Credit: USFWS

"I never thought I'd be burning prairie to help a toad," Felix Valdez said last spring. But that's exactly what he was doing.

Valdez, a U.S. Forest Service fire management officer, is working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managers and biologists, the multi-agency Wyoming Toad Recovery Team, and other partners at Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming, to conserve the last known population of the Wyoming toad (Bufo baxteri).

The Wyoming toad, now the most endangered amphibian in North America, once flourished in the wetlands and rivers of southeastern Wyoming. This species is especially small for a toad, averaging just over two inches in length. By the mid-1970s, the population was in decline likely due to a combination of insecticide use, changes in climate, agricultural practices, predation, and disease. In 1984, the toad was listed under the Endangered Species Act, and in 1993, The Nature Conservancy helped establish the refuge to protect the species.

In April 2012, Valdez was the burn boss for a prescribed burn project designed to give the native toad what it needs to survive: water and warmth. Studies show the Wyoming toad requires pockets of warm, shallow water to breed. Historically, livestock grazing kept rushes in check, allowing plenty of sunlight to warm the waters. Over time, grazing declined, requiring prescribed fires to keep plant growth in check. Without the prevention of overgrowth on this high plains prairie, biologists are concerned that Wyoming toads won't survive in the wild. So, prescribed fire, along with prescribed grazing, is part of a collaborative recovery plan to achieve self-sustaining populations and ultimately delist the species.

Click here to read the rest of this story. ยป

Another part of the recovery plan includes a captive breeding program at Saratoga National Fish Hatchery in Wyoming and the University of Wyoming's Red Buttes Biological Lab, and various zoos. To date, almost 40,000 tadpoles and toadlets have been released into the wild. Researchers continue to study the toad's habitat requirements and the best strategies for releasing captive tadpoles and toadlets.

Nearly 30 years after it gained federal protection, the Wyoming toad is still with us today. While the toad has been extirpated from much of its historic habitat and is still a federally endangered species, there is great hope for the species' future thanks to these ongoing coordinated conservation efforts.

"Most importantly, in my experience, this is the best way to deliver conservation on the ground, and the only way to get this toad recovered."

Karen Miranda Gleason is a public affairs specialist in the Refuge System Branch of Fire Management at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel, and download photos from our Flickr page.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Office of Communications

4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS-330

Arlington, VA 22203

(703) 358-2220

(703) 358-1973



Karen Miranda Gleason
(208) 387-5891

Enter your e-mail address below

SafeSubscribe Logo
For Email Marketing you can trust
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with
Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and
their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
May 24, 2013
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
flickr youtube