Boreal Toad (copy)

Boreal toads were listed as endangered in 1993, their decline primarily attributed to a skin fungus called amphibian chytrid fungus. Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists recently announced "very promising" results when they tested the preliminary effects of an experimental antifungal bacterial wash on the toads. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists saw “very promising” results when they tested the preliminary effects of an experimental antifungal bacterial wash for endangered boreal toads.

According to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website, the toads, which were formerly common in the alpine wetland systems of Colorado, were listed as endangered in 1993. They are an especially unique species — one of the only toads in Colorado to inhabit high elevations.

The primary cause of the species’ decline is a skin fungus called amphibian chytrid fungus. The disease has an extremely high mortality rate and is rapidly effecting the toad population, according to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife boreal toad conservation plan.

Biologists spent this past winter waiting for the preliminary results of testing the antifungal wash, which has been dubbed “Purple Rain” due to its color.

The news release described this research project as a “potential game-changer” for not just the boreal toad population, but other amphibians affected by the disease as well.

“We are finding that the probiotic is successfully persisting on the toads for longer than expected,” said Tim Korpita, a PhD student involved with research. “We are also learning that the specific life stage in which the toads are treated matters a great deal.”

According to CPW, wild amphibians can’t easily be given vaccines or antifungal drugs. This is what led their team of researchers to test a probiotic wash instead. The idea is for the wash to be absorbed into the toads’ skin, protecting them from the disease during a vulnerable stage in their life.

“We are proud to be partners in this wildlife conservation fieldwork,” said Paul Foutz, CPW biologist. “It’s critical we find a cure to this deadly skin fungus that is killing our amphibians.”

Species conservation is integral to the mission of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Ecosystems are fragile; even the loss of just one species can have a devastating domino effect. The boreal toad is one of many species CPW seeks to protect.

“Our mission is to perpetuate, protect and recover what we can for these species,” said Bill Vogrin, CPW spokesman. “People need to realize that we are greatly diminished when we let things be driven to extinction.”

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