April 2021 - 24

Columbia spotted frogs lay their eggs, like these found in the Bighorn Mountains, in clusters 3-8 inches wide.
Frogs lay eggs in clusters, unlike toads that lay eggs in a string. (WGFD photo)

transforms to what looks like a frog with a tail, or a
froglet. Soon afterward, the tail disappears and the
creature's metamorphosis from tadpole to frog or toad
is complete. Elevation, climate and species affects the
timing of the process. Spadefoot toads are a Cowboy
State example of a toad with an accelerated life-cycle.
" Spadefoots breed in ephemeral water bodies that
often dry up quite quickly, " Estes-Zumpf said. " They
hide underground for most of the year, sometimes in
really dry places. They then come out during spring
rains to breed. The tadpoles of spadefoot toads metamorphose very quickly in relation to other species. "
Like many other creatures, winter is a survival
challenge for amphibians, including toads and frogs.
Most frog species burrow into the mud at the bottom
of a pond or backwater to escape the frigid months
of winter. One Wyoming native to has a fascinating
strategy for winter survival.
" Wood frogs are really unique. They're one of just
a few species of amphibians that can overwinter by
completely freezing, " Estes-Zumpf marveled.

Threats to survival

Tadpoles of the Wyoming toad swim at Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, located southwest
of Laramie, is operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was established in 1993 to support the last
known population of the Wyoming toad. (Photo by Gage McKeag)

A boreal toad is in the final stages of metamorphing from a tadpole into a toadlet.
(Photo by Dana Shellhorn/USFWS)

24 | April 2021	

Frogs, toads and other amphibians across the
world have more challenges than winter weather.
Population declines in many species were documented
in the late 20th century. A landmark study in 2004
which appeared in the journal Science and has been
cited by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded
that 33 percent of amphibian species across the globe
were threatened and an additional 10 percent were
in decline. The intervening decade-and-a-half haven't reversed the situation. The last 20 years have
witnessed the extinction of more than 100 species
of amphibians worldwide.
But Wyoming amphibians are in better shape
than most.
" We are fairly fortunate, " Estes-Zumpf said. " We
have a relatively intact landscape without the habitat
degradation and loss that's driving some of the global
declines. But we do have a fungal infection that's also
a big problem in some other places. "
The amphibian chytrid fungus attaches to the
skin of frogs and toads and eventually leads to cardiac arrest. Some species are more resistant to the
fungus than others. Many vulnerable species have
been locally and globally wiped out.
" The population most threatened in our state is
the endangered Wyoming toad that is only found in
the Laramie Basin, " Estes-Zumpf said. " We thought
they'd gone extinct in the 1980s but a few individuals
were found. Their demise was likely due, at least in
part, to the fungus. "
There now is a captive breeding program for
Wyoming toads with the aim to restore the natives
back on the landscape. Boreal toads in Wyoming



April 2021

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https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/october-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/september-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/august-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/july-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/june-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/may-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/april-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/march-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/february-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/January2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/December2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/September2020
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