Endangered Toad Habitat Expanded at Mortensen Lake Refuge

The endangered Wyoming toad just gained more room to roam thanks to the addition of 581 acres to the Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge.


July 13, 2018
The Refuge was the last-known location where this uniquely Wyoming species, also known as the Baxter’s toad (Bufo Baxteri), was found in 1987 after populations crashed in the mid-1970s. That remaining Refuge population ultimately spurred species recovery efforts for this rare amphibian, which lives only in the floodplains of the Laramie Basin in southeast Wyoming. 
The Nature Conservancy purchased the additional property in 2010 with the intent of selling it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Conservancy then took care of the land until the Service secured funds to purchase the additional acres for the Refuge.   
 
The principle causes of Wyoming toad decline include pesticide pollution, loss of habitat due to development, climatic changes, and the chytrid fungus. In 1993, the species became so endangered that wild Wyoming toads were collected for captive breeding and species recovery. Today, Wyoming toads are once again breeding in the wild and have been reintroduced through voluntary collaborative conservation efforts on public and private lands.
 
In May 2018, representatives from the Conservancy and the Service released nearly 1,200 captive-bred adult toads on the Refuge to bolster the wild population. These newly released toads came from the Saratoga and Leadville National Fish Hatcheries and from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.  
 
Service activities on Mortenson Lake National Refuge focus on the recovery of the Wyoming toad. The Breeding toads prefer open, shallow areas along lakeshores, and managed grazing helps maintain preferred habitat conditions for toads in these open areas.
 
The 2.2-inch Wyoming toad was listed as a federally-endangered species in January 1984. The Refuge was formally established in 1993 after The Nature Conservancy facilitated the purchase of ranchland that contained the last remaining population of toads. This recent addition consists of 475 acres of mixed-grass prairie and 106 acres of wetlands on the northwest border of the Refuge. 
 

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Contact information

Bebe Crouse
(406) 579-8559
bcrouse@tnc.org

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