It’s Tough to be a Toad

Image by Mikaela Oles/USFWS | Video by Christina Stone/USFWS

TOADally cool facts about the Wyoming toad

  • Discovered in 1946 by a professor at the University of Wyoming, Dr. George T. Baxter
  • Known only to inhabit Albany County, Wyoming
  • This small chunker of a toad grows to be a little over 2 inches long
  • Usually brown, gray, or dark green in color and covered in warts
  • Lifespan of up to 8 years
  • Relies on detecting movements to catch prey
  • Eats small invertebrates such as ants, beetles, and insect larvae
  • Secretes poison from glands behind their eyes to evade predators
  • Males give females a hug while breeding
  • Males vibrate when picked up and will sometimes chirp

When the Wyoming toad ran wild

The Wyoming toad was once an abundant species commonly seen hopping around the Laramie Plains in Albany County, Wyoming. These adorable little lumps could be found in the floodplains of the Big and Little Laramie rivers and in ponds throughout the Laramie Basin.

Wyoming toad sitting in shallow water with toes spread
Wyoming toad by Michael D’Agostino/USFWS

Road to recovery

Every year, USFWS works alongside partners such as federal and state agencies, universities, zoos, and volunteers to find new ways to achieve self-sustaining wild populations of the Wyoming toad. Their efforts include a captive breeding program that centers around releasing captive-raised toads into suitable habitat in Albany County, and then monitoring their survival in the wild. In the past, tadpoles and toadlets were released into the wild with the expectation that they would grow and breed. However, this process was not, by itself, effective at reestablishing wild populations, because the tadpoles and toadlets often struggled to make it to adulthood. Now, in addition to tadpoles and toadlets, adult toads are released in the hopes that they will be more resilient and likely to successfully breed.

Girl with long, blonde braid, black ball cap, blue shirt, blue backpack, and gray pants while kneeling down to write on paper
Left: Wyoming toad with tracking belt by Mikaela Oles/USFWS | Right: Collecting data of Wyoming toads by Mikaela Oles/USFWS
Wyoming toad on back in hands covered in white latex gloves, Q-tip rubbing on toad
Bathing Wyoming toad in Vitamin E by Michael D’Agostino/USFWS
Woman with short brown hair, gray ball cap, green shirt, and orange backpack holding a giant antenna
Left: Rachel Arrick collecting habitat data by Mikaela Oles/USFWS | Right: Rachel Arrick using an antennae to track Wyoming toads
girl with ball cap and long blonde braid holding a Wyoming toad in front of her face and smiling
Graduate student with a Wyoming toad after collecting data by Mindy Meade/USFWS

Hopping into hope

While the recovery of the Wyoming toad will take many more years of dedication and tedious, hard work, we are on the way to achieving self-sustaining, wild populations. Every year, innovative ideas and processes are being implemented to bring us even closer to conservation success. The survival of the Wyoming toad (and all amphibians) is imperative for the health of the environment. Not only do they help control insect populations, but they are an important part of the food web, provide nutrients to the environment, and are indicators of the health of the habitat that is shared by countless species. Thanks to the work of many passionate and driven USFWS employees and caring partners, there is hope that the Wyoming toad will once again be abundant and living its best life in the Laramie Plains of Wyoming.

Learn more about the Wyoming toad:

St Louis Zoo — Wyoming Toad

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo — Wyoming Toad

The Wyoming Toad: Almost extinct in America’s backyard (Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project)

Wyoming Toads Begin To Recover As States Seek Endangered Species Act Overhaul (NPR)

Putting the Extremely Rare Wyoming Toad Back Into the Wild (National Geographic)

Wyoming Toad Streaming (YouTube)

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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