Thursday, June 16, 2016

Got Warts?

In the last blog we described the insect breeding and feeding operation here at Leadville National Fish Hatchery. The purpose is to have live food for Wyoming Toads that are being raised here.
Boot Rack
The greatest threat to the toads is Chytrid Fungus. This fungus is thought to be responsible for the extinction of over 100 amphibian species worldwide and is considered the most significant threat to the world's montane amphibian populations. Since the spores of the fungus are widespread, special precautions are in place to avoid carrying them into the toad room.
Disinfecting Mat
The hatchery has special boots that are worn only into the toad room, and never outdoors. Each time someone enters the toad room they remove their shoes, put on the boots, and step onto a disinfecting mat. So far these precautions have worked well and our toads are Chytrid Fungus free.
Lunch is Served
The first step in feeding the toads is to collect the designated bug for the day, dust them with supplements like calcium and vitamins, and put them into the freezer to slow them down before feeding. 

We then go tank by tank, making sure that each toad gets the correct amount of food, which was two roaches each on this day.
Roach. What Roach??
 Unfortunately, it turns out that Wyoming Toads have lousy eyesight. They react only to movement, so if the bug isn't moving they don't see it. We spend a lot of time pushing and poking the food toward the toads in the hope that they will grab it. 
Nope. Still Don't See Anything. 
It can get a little comical as they strike at fingers, tweezers, and each other. Sometimes anything except for the food.
I See it Now!!
The most successful approach is to hold the food in tweezers and wave it back and forth in front of the toad. Between keeping track of which toads are which, and getting the correct one to eat the food, it can get frustrating!
Feeding the Toads
Ana is the hatchery Biotech who is in charge of the toads as well as the insects. And she just received 100 tadpoles which require their own particular food, so she stays busy. She allowed us to help with the toad feeding, but we'll end up spending much more time with the bugs than the toads.
Living the Toad Life
Eighteen of the Wyoming Toads raised here were released into the wild a couple of weeks ago, and more are scheduled to go out as they mature. Hopefully this effort will result in a sustainable population of toads in the wild.



  1. We've done some unusual jobs for FWS, but never fed a toad... what an interesting place!

  2. Who would have ever guessed such work goes into raising toads? Quite interesting.

  3. No wonder they are almost extinct if they don't recognize food when they see it. Good post.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I assume the toads get used to other bugs pretty quickly since I am guessing the aren't that many wild roaches where you are. Or are there?

    1. I'm not really sure what their main diet is in the wilds of Wyoming. I know that the various bugs raised here are chosen for their ability to be captive raised along with their nutritional content. No doubt they are different from the wild foods. I hope that wild toads are better at spotting food than these guys!!