Aug 10, 2021
CPW and partners hike miles in heat to stock state-endangered boreal toad tadpoles
LEADVILLE, Colo. – Under a blistering late July sun, a team of Colorado Parks and Wildlife native aquatic biologists, staff and volunteers hiked a steep mountain trail, each loaded with 30-pound bags of water filled with 100 or so squirming, black boreal toad tadpoles.
They were joined by other members of the Arkansas Basin Boreal Toad Team – an interagency workgroup created to coordinate conservation and management of the state-endangered Boreal toads within the Arkansas River basin in Colorado.
Besides CPW, the workgroup includes the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS).
In all, about 20 people hiked 7-plus miles, round trip, to deposit some 1,800 tadpoles into an alpine wetland along West Tennessee Creek at 11,500 feet elevation.
There, in the shallow waters of Titan Lake, they released their tadpoles, which immediately began swimming and feeding along its algae laden shores, beneath the jagged, snow-tipped summit of Homestake Peak at 13,209 feet.
The tadpole relocation project was done in consultation with the Colorado Boreal Toad Recovery Team. The interagency workgroup long ago identified the West Tennessee Creek drainage as a possible relocation site, given the quality of its wetlands and the potential for breeding and its history as a home to Boreal toads.
Similar parades of CPW biologists, staff and volunteers have recently taken place to high-altitude wetlands statewide as the agency pursues several avenues in its efforts to rescue the tiny brownish-black state-endangered toad.
Boreal toads once thrived in Colorado high country wetlands, but their numbers have been crashing due to a deadly “chytrid” skin fungus that is threatening amphibians worldwide.
The grueling hike was led by Paul Foutz, CPW native aquatic species biologist in the Southeast Region and Boreal Toad specialist. Partner teams were led by Jeni Windorski, wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service in Leadville and Brad Lambert, a zoologist with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
The tadpoles were taken as eggs from the East Fork Homestake Creek boreal toad population in the Northwest Region, and grown (hatched & grown?) at the John Mumma Native Aquatic Restoration Facility hatchery in Alamosa, in the Southwest Region.
“With our partners, CPW is working hard to recover the state-endangered Boreal toad by creating new populations,” Foutz said. “The deadly chytrid fungus and other impacts to their natural habitat is causing this species to decline dramatically, and we’re doing everything we can to preserve them.
“We have just a few robust populations left on the landscape. They’ve been declining in recent decades. This is the first translocation in Lake County. We’re hoping the tadpoles we released today will survive and thrive, and in a few weeks metamorph into land-dwelling toadlets. We’ll continue to monitor this new population along with existing populations around the state in our effort to maintain boreal toads across the Colorado landscape for generations to come.”
VIDEOS: Interviews and b-roll video posted on the Twitter feed of the CPW Southeast Region: @CPW_SE
All photos are courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife/Bill Vogrin
About 20 members of the Arkansas Basin Boreal Toad Team – including biologists and staff of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management, the Colorado Natural Heritage Program and U.S. Forest Service – gather around CPW's Paul Foutz, native aquatic species biologist and boreal toad specialist, prior to hiking 1,800 boreal toad tadpoles to a high alpine lake near Leadville on July 27, 2021.
CPW's Kevin Madler, a district wildlife manager in Buena Vista, carefully scoops about 100 boreal toad tadpoles into a bag to be hiked 3.5 miles up West Tennessee Creek to Titan Lake, below Homestake Peak, where they were released.
As CPW's Kevin Madler, a district wildlife manager in Buena Vista, reached in a fish tank for boreal toad tadpoles, Zach Baker, CPW district wildlife manager in Leadville, prepared a plastic bag to receive more tadpoles for hiking.
After the tadpoles were bagged, CPW hatchery staff pumped oxygen into the bags and sealed them for the 3.5 mile hike to Titan Lake.
Teams left in waves for the often steep hike up West Tennessee Creek to the high alpine lake where they released the boreal toad tadpoles.
The hikers dropped their bags of boreal toad tadpoles into the water of Titan Lake beneath Homestake Peak and allowed the water temperature in the bags to synch with the water in the lake before they were released.
Immediately upon their release, the 1,800 boreal toad tadpoles (some with tiny legs already visible due to the process of metamorphosis) began swimming and feeding on algae along the shores of Titan Lake.