This post written by Cassidy Johnson
The Houston toad staff would like to introduce everyone to Red, a 2-year old female Houston toad. Red is a little smaller than some of her female tank mates; however, what she lacks in size she makes up in spunk!
Red is a member of strand 25, which is a group of toads that were collected from Leon County, Texas. Why do we call groups of toads in our facility strands? Unlike many species of frogs that lay their eggs in large clumps called egg masses, many toads lay their eggs in linear strings, or strands. Each strand represents the offspring of a single mating event, so all of the toads in a strand can be considered brothers and sisters.
The Houston toad facility at the zoo raises toads from egg strands that are either laid in captivity or from partially collected wild egg strands. Why don’t we collect and raise the entire wild egg strand? Just like other amphibian eggs, the Houston toad eggs are an important part of the ecosystem and it is important that we leave some behind. Additionally, in the off chance that something happens to the eggs that are taken to the facility, there will still be offspring produced from the eggs left behind.
Once they reach a certain size, the toads raised in the facility are released back where they were collected. This process of raising toads from eggs in captivity is called head-starting, and continued release of animals back into the environment using this method will hopefully increase the wild population over time.
Back in 2010, several partial egg strands were collected from a site in Leon County; unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, the toads head-started from these strands could not be released back at the collection site. It has taken several years and lots of work by our partners at U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and Texas State University, but a new, suitable release may have finally been located!
Why was finding a suitable location so difficult? Check out the blog again next week to find out!