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The Endangered Wyoming Toad Gets More Protected Habitat

A Wyoming toad about to be released
Cooper McKim
Wyoming Public Radio

A wildlife refuge near Laramie is expanding by nearly 600 acres. The Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge is one home to reintroduction efforts of the endangered Wyoming toad, whose population crashed in the mid-1970s. The amphibians have since been brought back to the area where they are beginning to breed in the wild.

The Nature Conservancy bought the 581 acres of land back in 2010 from a private citizen and held onto it until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could afford buying them out. Brent Lathrop, southeast Wyoming program director for the Nature Conservancy, said it’s particularly important to stop some areas from being developed.

"The owner at the time wanted to sell that property to the Fish and Wildlife Service for Wyoming toad habitat and we stepped in at the request of the Fish and Wildlife Service and purchased it and they finally secured the funding to take us out on it," Lathrop said.

He added they were able to step in a critical moment.

"As the Laramie area grows, and its slowly growing, the ranchettes spreading out into the rural area, spots like this associated with the Mortenson Refuge and the lake could potentially be rural acreages. That may not be good for the health and welfare of the toads," Lathrop said.

The addition to the wildlife refuge consists of 475 acres of prairie and 106 acres of wetlands.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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