More than 3,000 tadpoles from St. Paul are now swimming in Wyoming ponds and lakes as a part of an effort to help re-establish a population of rare toads.
The Wyoming toad was placed on the endangered species list in 1984 and was feared to be extinct. After researchers found the last surviving toads near Mortenson Lake in Wyoming in the late 80s, the amphibians have been the focus of a nationwide breeding program — including at the Como Zoo in St. Paul. It's one of just a handful of other breeding facilities.
As part of the program, the zoo received adult Wyoming toads that live in a specially retrofitted room.
"We actually keep these guys in a bio secure facility, so basically, if you're working with amphibians and animals, you can't go in that room," said zookeeper Mike Lee, who helps breed the toads. "We don't want to introduce any diseases to the collection."
On Monday, 3,288 Wyoming toad tadpoles were shipped overnight for release near the Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
The zoo's private donors help fund the project. Conservation experts in Wyoming say recent efforts have established a small breeding population in the toad's traditional range.