Bufo boreas boreas
Colorado Division of Wildlife
At a Glance
Boreal toads often use holes dug by squirrels or other rodents as burrows during the winter and can spend half of their life hibernating. Like all toads, they can also use stars and their sense of smell to navigate across land.
Range: Colorado and Utah (extinct in New Mexico)
Habitat Type: Montane wetlands and adjacent forested areas
Primary Diet: Mostly ants, spiders and beetles for adults
Estimated Population: As of 2005, 39 breeding populations (evidence of breeding in the past 5 years) were known. Only two of these remain free of chytrid fungus.
States with Current Habitat
Fungus and other threats have diminished populations and habitat for the southern Rocky Mountain population of the boreal toad. Combined with interference in protection from political appointees and the growing impact of global warming, the southern Rocky Mountain boreal toad remains in danger of disappearing forever.
Why Protection is Needed
The toad has disappeared from most of its historical sites and has faced serious declines in population over the past 25 years. Threats include a wide range of sources, such as water pollution and livestock grazing, but chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) is also having a large impact. Currently, only two locations for the toads remain free of the fungus. The toad is also an example of political interference misusing genetics to prevent protection.
The southern Rocky Mountains population of the toad, including Colorado and Utah, was originally petitioned to be protected in 1993 and found to be warranted but precluded in 1995. In August 2004, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepared a draft proposed rule to list the southern Rocky Mountain population of the boreal toad as an endangered species, but because of political interference, this finding was never published. Instead, the agency claimed that the southern Rocky Mountain population no longer qualified as a distinct population segment based on recent genetic studies. The lead researcher on the genetics study, however, stated her research was misused by the Service.
In addition, the toad is only found in higher elevations – for example, above 8,500 feet in Colorado – and is thus susceptible to the impacts of global warming. As average temperatures increase, suitable habitat gets pushed to higher and higher elevations, which can then become isolated from one another by valleys and other lower elevation breaks in the terrain.
The southern Rocky Mountains boreal toad was listed as a distinct population segment on the endangered species Candidate List from 1995 to 2005.