Conservation Status: IUCN Red List – Near Threatened
Threats to survival: Habitat destruction and fragmentation; disease; pollution; invasive species
Hibernation is Key
The southern Rocky Mountain population of boreal toad is limited to high elevations of montane wetland in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and southeastern Wyoming. Boreal toads hibernate for 5-6 months of the year and emerge when the snow melts. At this time, males and females congregate in ponds and slow running streams to breed. Research suggests that hibernation plays a critical role not only in reproduction, but ultimately in survival. Females that are denied hibernation fail to deposit eggs and males do not produce sperm. As a result, artificial hibernation has become a permanent management strategy for boreal toads in managed colonies.
Enhancing Reproductive Efficiency
Our Reproductive Sciences team is working with our partners to increase the breeding success of this species through assisted reproductive technology. In the lab, we are treating artificially hibernated toads with hormones to promote reproductive behaviors, which stimulates natural breeding responses. By producing greater numbers of tadpoles and froglets, we have actively contributed to the boreal toad tadpole reintroduction program. Our work has also allowed us to study embryonic development. Amphibians go through a series of drastic changes during metamorphosis. Survival from tadpole to froglet is low due to the extreme nature of this transformation. Through our research, we have gained a better understanding of the nutritional and environmental requirements that enhance tadpole and froglet survival.
Boreal toads spend a large part of their time in the water and like other amphibians are excellent indicators of water quality. At Colorado’s Native Aquatic Species Restoration Facility, we are studying how water quality affects toad health and reproduction, while in the field, we are working with our partners to collect data on water quality at a number of different sites where boreal toads are found. With this information we will know if the water quality in our breeding facility is providing an adequate environment for the boreal toads. Collectively, our research provides information on life and reproduction and helps us design effective management strategies for the largest boreal toad assurance colony in the United States.