“We need folks willing to hike into some of our high mountain lakes and ponds to determine which locations might have boreal toads.”
~ Tina Jackson, Colorado Division of Wildlife
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — The Colorado Division of Wildlife is once again on the search for endangered boreal toads and would like some help from volunteers this summer to scour high mountain ponds for signs of the rare amphibians.
Two training sessions are coming up in the next few weeks, offering a chance for people to get some hands-on experience with endangered species.
“We need folks willing to hike into some of our high mountain lakes and ponds to determine which locations might have boreal toads,” said Tina Jackson, one of the division’s lead amphibian biologists.
The first training for volunteers is May 13 (5:30 p.m.) at the Colorado Division of Wildlife office in Salida, with information on what boreal toads look like and where they might be found.
The toads were once common in alpine ponds and wetlands between 7,000 and 12,000 feet, including in the beaver ponds of Cucmber Gulch in Breckenridge, where long-time residents can recall hearing their lyrical chorus on summer evenings.
But in Cucumber Gulch, and many other similar spots, the toads have nearly vanished from the landscape, probably because of the rapid global spread of the chytrid fungus, which invades the thin, permeable skin of amphibians. The fungus is harmless to humans but kills amphibians by blocking their ability to absorb oxygen through their skin.
Along with other environmental factors, the fungus has been implicated in catastrophic worldwide decline of amphibian species, seen as one of the greatest threats to global biodiversity. Amphibian extinction rates by some estimates are outpacing the natural, background rate of species extinctions by more than 200 times. Some studies suggest that, along with the fungus, amphibians simply can’t keep pace with global warming changes and widespread increases in water pollution.
State biologists have carefully been monitoring boreal toad populations for years, keeping an eye on know breeding sites and trying to determine how and why some populations have persisted. In some cases, it may because the toads haven’t been exposed to the fungus. And genetic research is also under way, aimed at determining whether some toads have natural resistance.
Additionally, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has a robust re-introduction program for the toads. Biologists working in an aquatic lab near Alamosa hatch boreal toad eggs and transplant the tadpoles to suitable habitats — on the Grand Mesa, for example, where they can be carefully tracked. The real test for those toads is whether they will reproduce once they’ve been released.
The second training is May 22 when Jackson will lead a field trip to a location where boreal toads are known to exist and provide hands-on training on how to identify the species and collect data.
For more information about becoming a volunteer, contact: Raquel Stotler, DOW Area Wildlife Conservation Biologist in Salida at (719) 530-5526, (email@example.com); or Jena Sanchez, DOW Volunteer Coordinator in Colorado Springs at (719) 227-5204, (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For more news about Division of Wildlife go to: http://wildlife.state.co.us/news/index.asp?DivisionID=3
For more information about Division of Wildlife go to: http://wildlife.state.co.us.
Filed under: Colorado Division of Wildlife, Environment, Summit County Colorado, wildlife Tagged: | amphibian decline, boreal toads, Colorado Division of Wildlife, endangered species, Summit County Colorado, Summit County News, wildlife volunteers