The Reintroduction Process of Spadefoot Toads

spadefoot toad in wetland

Ian Ives and his colleagues, including Tom Biebighauser of Wetland Restoration and Training LLC,  Bryan Windmiller, Director of Conservation Programs  at Zoo New England, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Wildlife Program and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife have restored over 20 new breeding pools in fields as well as woodland and formerly cultivated land across the state.

Sites include Long Pasture and Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuaries on Cape Cod, the Breivogel Ponds Conservation Area in Falmouth, and the Southwick Wildlife Management Area in Southwick.

They have also moved thousands of young toads to Ashumet Holly from Sandy Neck Barrier Beach in Barnstable. This translocation project is a first for the species and only the third vertebrate species translocation that Mass Fish and Wildlife has permitted within Massachusetts.

Before the toads set foot in their new homes, they are raised and cared for by students in local classrooms. Between 2011 and 2018, 850 students from 26 schools participated in head starting. This unique citizen science project gives the toads an important head start. The students nurture the spadefoots until they metamorphose from tadpoles to toads, at which point they’re released.

Students are also utilized in the ongoing monitoring. They help Mass Audubon scientists track the success of the translocations, census the colonization rates of other vernal pool species and measure a suite of physical characteristics in the newly created wetlands.

Added Benefits

Along with the endangered species conservation outcomes, our wetland restoration work is promoting species biodiversity, enhancing water quality and offering an aesthetically pleasing aquatic feature to our wildlife sanctuaries. We are actively promoting the benefits of our wetland restoration techniques to land protection organizations, land managers and owners, educators and wetland professionals. 

Come visit our beautiful newly created vernal pools at these Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries: