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Canadian toads relocated next door, warts and all

The wetlands around the Jansen Project (Project) are home to the Canadian toad (Bufo hemiophrys). In Saskatchewan, the Canadian toad is a sensitive species that was detected during Project environmental baseline studies. Its range covers the Canadian Prairie region, including much of Alberta, Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba.

The Canadian Toad Relocation and Monitoring Program was developed to gain a better understanding of the species and determine if relocation is a viable method to mitigate potential effects on the Canadian toad and its breeding habitat. Relocation of this species of amphibian had never been conducted prior to this research program.

Before decommissioning known breeding sites, adult toads, metamorphs, tadpoles and egg strings are relocated to wetlands outside the Project area. Prior to relocation, adult toads were tagged by injecting a visible implant elastomer (VIE) into the webbing of the back feet. When using a black light, the VIE glows allowing the crews to identify relocated toads during follow-up monitoring. Adult toads were also visually checked and swabbed for Chytrid fungus. This fungus affects amphibian populations globally by thickening the skin and inhibiting the absorption of water and electrolytes necessary for survival. The toads were then released into preselected wetlands that provide a similar habitat.

Forty-four adult Canadian toads have been tagged and relocated. In total 54 adults, 308 metamorphs, 21 tadpoles and eggs strings have been relocated. Through follow-up monitoring, and the detection of tagged Canadian toads, the program was able to document the short term success of relocation activities. Further research is required to make a definitive decision regarding the viability of relocation as a mitigative measure. The research program conducted has been recognized locally by the Saskatchewan Government and Calgary Zoo and will contribute towards a standardised amphibian translocation protocol in Canada.