(NPS Photo by L. Gelatt)
The semiarid environment of the Colorado National Monument may seem like an unusual place to find amphibians, but in fact, there are several species of frogs, toads, and a rarely seen salamander that reside in the monument. Some amphibians have the ability to remain dormant in underground burrows, sometimes for more than a year, enabling them to survive in harsh, dry environments. Emerging from their burrows during the rainy season they take advantage of intermittent streams and potholes. The raucous vocalizations heard, usually in the late spring and summer evenings, are emitted by male toads and frogs trying to attract mates and quickly reproduce while conditions are optimal.
Amphibians are very sensitive to their terrestrial and aquatic environments, changes in either can effect their survival and propagation. Like the “canary in a coal mine”, amphibians are considered indicator species that serve as monitors of the environment. Over the last several years scientists have documented an alarming decline in amphibian populations, some to the point of extinction. While a specific reason for this trend is unknown, there are several possibilities being studied. Pollution, acid rain, global warming, loss of habitat, and non-native predators / competitors are just a few of the changes that may be causing the declining populations.
Amphibian populations within Colorado National Monument are greatest along small perennial streams found in No Thoroughfare and Ute Canyons. Visitors can help amphibians by not disturbing water resources and reporting sightings at the visitor center.