A Species of Concern
A Species of Concern
Boreal toads (Anaxyrus boreas), a native Utah species, are found in high elevation mountain wetland areas. Once common in mountain habitats across Utah, boreal toad populations have severely declined in the last two decades. This decline has activated the conservation community into taking action – the species is currently waiting to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Experts attribute the decline to disease, climate change and habitat disturbance.
The primary disease of concern is chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Chytrid fungus has caused severe population declines worldwide, even the complete extinction of certain amphibian populations and species. The fungus infects the toads and lives inside the cells in the outer layer of their skin, causing the skin to thicken. This thickening prevents water absorption and oxygen exchange as well as the ionic balance in the blood systems of an amphibian. Climate change is thought to compound the effects of disease.
Small populations of toads that are located large distances from each other are especially vulnerable to habitat disturbance. This may be due to livestock grazing which tramples wetland areas, recreational activity including off-road vehicle use and development.
Biologists have been monitoring toads on the Paunsaugunt Plateau (near Bryce Canyon National Park), for several years. They have observed an alarming reduction in the number of toads. This population has been found to be genetically distinct, therefore it is very important to act fast to try and save them!
We have over 40 toads from the Paunsaugunt at the Zoo as part of our partnership with Utah Division of Wildlife Services (UDWR) located in the Center for Boreal Toad Conservation. Located in a specially designed facility the toads are off-display and will hopefully be a part of a recovery effort to re-establish the population in the future.
Surveys yield important information on boreal toad distribution across the state. However, boreal toads which are found in mountain lakes and streams are extremely time-consuming to survey. Zoo staff and volunteers team up with the UDWR to help with this hands-on conservation work. Our crews count, measure, swab for chytrid and looked for other indicators on how the toads are doing.
This is where you can help! Many of the historical alpine habitats are also frequently traversed by trekkers who know the mountains well. Recently an unknown breeding site was identified in the Wasatch Range – reported to the state by a hiker. Hoping to capture similar information, the app was designed for citizens to report their sightings directly through their mobile phones.
From the app, people can submit photos that are linked to latitude and longitude coordinates. Sharing information on the trail and/or identifying features of the area are also encouraged. Photos can be submitted as an unknown species, or people can hone in on identification by reviewing the range map, gallery of photos and amphibian vocalizations.
Submitted information feeds into a database which will be confirmed by biologists. This is a great way to help in our efforts as you are out enjoying nature!
Utah’s Hogle Zoo worked with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to create the Amphibians of Utah app and the poster Amphibians of Utah.
To download your app click one of the icons below to install the app.
FrogWatch USA is a frog and toad monitoring program where volunteers learn the calls of local species, identify them by song in the field, and record their findings. By collecting data, volunteers not only contribute to knowledge about wetlands and which frog species are found in their area, but they will also be able to educate members of their community about wetland conservation. To date, the data gathered by citizen scientists throughout the country has provided information about frog distribution, wetland health, and climate impacts on wildlife. You will help determine:
Please check the Events Calendar for training dates. Have a group that wants to participate, but can’t make the training dates? Contact the Education Department (contact us page) arrange a training class.