As children, my sister and I used to catch and release western toads nightly. Now I am lucky to see even one. The boreal toad, a subspecies of the western toad, was suspected to be extinct in the Colorado wild in the 1970s, yet it never made the endangered list. Now all three western toad subspecies are clearly in dramatic decline, but they remain on a petition for endangered status, currently classified as a “sensitive species.” Their deaths can be attributed to hazards such as habitat loss, the chytrid fungus, and comptition with nonnative predators such as bullfrogs. Even renowned green activists have had great difficulty jumping through bureaucratic hoops to protect wildlife on the most basic levels – check out Tears of the Cheetah: And Other Tales from the Genetic Frontier ($19.72 @ amazon.com) by Stephen J. O’Brien for a look into genetics and endangered species. My autographed copy reads like a mystery novel and is well-read.
The western toad is in a crisis that everyday people can deter. Start by building a frog pond, then certify your yard as an NWF Wildlife Habitat (link to www.nwf.org/backyard/).
When your frog pond is operational, display both your success and concern for wildlife, with an attractive, waterproof, recycled, 9”x12” sign from the National Wildlife Federation for $25.
Not living in the west? Amphibians across the world are in decline, a testament to the Earth’s precarious health. According to Rocky Mountain News, “At least 43 percent of the world’s 6,000 known species of amphibians – frogs, toads, salamanders and newts – are declining, according to the Global Amphibian Assessment, a 2004 report by 600 scientists in 60 countries. Thirty-two percent of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction, according to the study.”