Late Spring in Colorado: Mud, Earthworms, and Rare Toads

May 7 2010, 10:50 AM

If you haven't exactly enjoyed the topsy-turvy, sun-to-wind-to-rain-to-snow weather lately along the Front Range, you might want to talk to Betsy Defries, a winter naturalist for the Gore Range Natural Science School. She lives up in the High Country, where the weather is even more rugged. And that's just the way she likes it. As she writes in the Vail Daily, "It's no secret that springtime in Colorado comes slowly." And before it arrives, at some point when the big snowstorms stop, "It isn't winter anymore. Yet, it's not quite spring. It is in fact, mud season." She adds, "No matter how you feel about mud season, remember that it is a necessary transition (albeit slow) that nature must make in order to blossom into spring. Case in point, the earthworm." The earthworms, it turns out, love this time of year, and they bode well for all forms of life. Presumably they help, in some way, Colorado's increasingly rare boreal toads (though it's not clear from this Colorado State University fact sheet if boreal toads eat earthworms). The toads, which reside at altitudes of 7,000-12,000 feet above sea level, were once common in these parts, but are now a federally protected, endangered species in Colorado and New Mexico and are protected in Wyoming, according to 9News. If you see one, the Colorado Division of Wildlife wants to know. "We need folks willing to hike into some of our high mountain lakes and ponds to determine which locations might have boreal toads," says Tina Jackson, of the DOW. Researchers believe an infection caused by a fungus is affecting the toads; the fungus isn't dangerous to people. If you want to volunteer, contact Raquel Stotler, DOW area wildlife conservation biologist, at 719-530-5526 or e-mail [email protected], or Jena Sanchez, DOW volunteer coordinator, at 719-227-5204 or e-mail [email protected].

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