The only Wyoming toads in the world live in Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Wyoming, where they were common until the 1970s, hopping around at the edges of creeks, ponds, and small lakes. Then they started to disappear.
They fell prey to the chytrid fungus, like nearly a third of the world’s amphibian species. And they were unable to adapt quickly enough to survive a warming climate and a shrinking habitat. The crash was swift. By 1984, the Wyoming toad was an endangered species, and in 1991, it was declared “extinct in the wild.” The only Wyoming toads left were in captive breeding programs.
Biologists have fought long and hard to save the species. That mostly means breeding Wyoming toads in captivity and gradually reintroducing them to the wilds of Wyoming – and it’s working. A recent survey found over 200 Wyoming toads in the wild, more than the world has seen since 1975.
Top image: USFWS Mountain Prairie via Wikimedia Commons