The endangered Wyoming toad, already one of the rarest creatures in North America, is threatened by a disease that has devastated amphibian populations worldwide.

Chytridiomycosis is a fungal disease that can decimate populations, and it has a tendency to disproportionately affect unique species like the Wyoming toad.  In order to mitigate this and other threats to the Wyoming toad, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in collaboration with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced today that it has developed a final recovery plan for the species.

“In recent years, we have gained valuable insight into the threats facing the species as well as new techniques and technologies for addressing those threats. Our ultimate goal with this plan, which we will implement collaboratively with our partners, is to recover the Wyoming toad and return the species to state management,” said Tyler Abbott, leader of the U.S. Fish and Game Service’s Wyoming toad recovery efforts.  “This plan lays out a roadmap for saving one of America’s most imperiled amphibians.”

One of the four most endangered amphibian species in North America, the Wyoming toad was listed as endangered in 1984 and is currently classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as “extinct in the wild.”  About 500 of the toads are maintained in captivity so that they can be bred and eventually reintroduced.

“Wyoming has made a strong commitment to recovering this species and we are glad to be a part of this plan further restoring the Wyoming toad,” said Chief of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Fish Division, Mark Fowden.

At one time, the species was abundant on the Laramie Plains, but the population was severely reduced during the middle of the 1970s.  Scientists believe that this may have been due to chytridiomycosis.  Lack of areas in which to reintroduce the Wyoming toad coupled with a small population size make reintroduction efforts extremely difficult.  The Final Recovery Plan announced today directly addresses these threats, and has an ultimate goal of restoring self-sustaining populations that no longer need protection under the Endangered Species Act.

A minimum of five self-sustaining populations that persist for at least seven years within the Wyoming toad’s previous range are required before the species can be removed from the list of endangered species.

Under the final recovery plan, an adaptive management plan must also be created in order to maintain conservation of wild and captive populations for 25 years after the Wyoming toad is delisted. The adaptive management plan will cover specific monitoring procedures to keep population levels from falling below recovery criteria.  It must address known threats, as well as dangers that may materialize in the future.