Plan aims to build on gains made by the Wyoming toad

Oct 2, 2015 The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- A new recovery plan for the Wyoming toad announced Thursday seeks to carry forward recent success in finally getting the critically endangered amphibian to survive in the wild.

Key for the 2-inch toad, which not long ago was considered extinct in the wild, is a new technique for releasing tadpoles bred in captivity into the Laramie River Valley.

Instead of releasing tadpoles straight into ponds, biologists over the past three years have been putting them in large, wire-mesh cages placed partway in the ponds. Later, they transfer young toads to cages upland before releasing them, fully grown, to hop away into the summer grassland.

The cages prevent predators -- birds, raccoons, mice -- from indulging in tadpole snacks. The result: Biologists this year counted a record 1,000 or so toads at Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge a dozen miles southwest of Laramie. Among them were a few hundred toads of breeding age and even some egg clusters, a vastly better result than the few dozen toads, at most, they used to find each spring.

"I find it extremely encouraging," said Lizzy Mack, Wyoming toad manager for the University of Wyoming and Fish and Wildlife Service.

Biologists are working with private landowners to release toads at two other locations under federal "safe harbor agreements" shielding them from liability for accidental toad harm on their property.