Boreal toads (Bufo boreas) are one of the rare animals in Rocky Mountain National Park and are listed by the State of Colorado as endangered. Like many amphibian populations around the globe, boreal toad populations are declining. While all the contributing factors to this decline are not yet known, a chytrid fungus is suspected to be a big part of the problem in the Rocky Mountain National Park. (If you want to understand more about factors contributing to the decline of amphibians worldwide, you should visit the FrogWeb home page and explore its many useful links.) Three years of drought in Colorado have not helped an already serious situation.
When weather conditions are favorable, better reproduction of boreal toads in parts Rocky Mountain National Park have been seen. While reproduction has failed in one area where toads were previously known to reproduce (perhaps adults are no longer present in those areas, or predators have eaten the eggs), researchers have found exceptionally large numbers of tadpoles and toadlets at one previously known spot. Also, researchers believe a new reproducing population has been located.
Park biologists are cautiously celebrating this good news. Good production of toad eggs does not mean that they will survive to reproduce themselves. Toad eggs can be eaten by fish, aquatic insects, tiger salamanders, and western garter snakes. Toadlets (recently metamorphosed from tadpoles) are prey to birds, salamanders, and snakes. Fortunately, they are shy creatures, and hide in mud cracks (see toadlet picture) and find other refuges when threatened. They may also die of diseases, pollution, weather conditions, and a variety of other problems. In the natural ecosystems in the park, only a few of the toad eggs that hatch may grow into reproducing adults. Nevertheless, in a year with an abundant hatch, the probability that there will be a next generation of reproducing toads has greatly increased.
Hopefully, with this new crop of boreal toadlets, the high pitched squeaks of the boreal toad will continue to be heard in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Last updated: March 31, 2012