Wyoming toad recovery sees continued success


7/17/2023 2:40:00 PM

Laramie - Approximately 800 Wyoming toads were released recently in a continued team effort to maintain a species endangered and exclusive to the Laramie area.

In early June toads were released at four sites near Laramie. The release was part of an ongoing effort to assist in the recovery of the species once thought to be extinct. The Wyoming toad was common through the early-1970s but was believed extinct by 1985. Two years later, a small population was rediscovered.

In 2001 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service appointed the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to the Wyoming Toad Recovery Team. The team also has representatives from the University of Wyoming, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Laramie Rivers Conservation District, Wyoming Natural Diversity Database, private landowners and ranchers, USFWS Wyoming Field Office, National Fish Hatchery System, Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado and representatives from other organizations.

“The Wyoming Toad Recovery Team is an amazing group of people from across the United States dedicated to saving our local toad. We could not have brought the species back from the brink of extinction without the help of all the groups involved contributing their unique expertise to the effort,” said Wendy Estes-Zumpf, Game and Fish herpetological coordinator.

Although a number of facilities contribute to the captive breeding effort, the Saratoga National Fish Hatchery in Saratoga and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado, currently have the space needed to captive-rear toads so they can be released as 1-year-olds.

“That really minimizes the typically large — up to 95% — mortality you get from releasing tadpoles,” Estes-Zumpf said.

June’s release marked the eighth year of releasing adult toads in addition to tadpoles.

Estes-Zumpf also said wild toads typically take 2 to 4 years to reach breeding size. But a good portion of the 1-year-old toads released are capable of breeding upon release thanks to their controlled environment and consistent food supply when reared in captivity.

Private landowners have been essential to recovering the Wyoming toad. Three of this year’s release sites are privately owned and have Safe Harbor Agreements where the recovery team can release toads. Toads are currently released on property owned by Fred and Stephanie Lindzey, The Conservation Fund and Go Beyond — formally known as the Buford Foundation. The fourth release site is the Mortensen Lake National Wildlife Refuge where the toad was rediscovered after it was thought to be extinct. Mortensen Lake was owned by Charlie Swanson, who sold the land to The Nature Conservancy to protect the toad.

Estes-Zumpf said the wild population of Wyoming toad is not yet self-sustaining but progress is being made.  Successful breeding in the wild is a critical step toward reaching self-sustaining populations. As of 2022 wild breeding has occurred at one or more reintroduction sites for seven consecutive years.

“We’ve come a long way with this recovery effort,” Estes-Zumpf said. “In the last 10 years, the team has developed a strategy for evaluating reintroduction techniques. There has been more research, we’ve seen an increase in the number of toads and we’ve definitely increased our knowledge of the ecology of the toads. We’re moving in the right direction.”

(Breanna Ball, Public Information Officer - (

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