AUSTIN -- Members of Texas Parks and Wildlife, along with volunteers from across Central Texas, are helping a tiny toad that right now only lives in one small area in Bastrop.
In a remote part of Bastrop State Park, a special homecoming is happening.
“These were harvested out of this very pond so they're coming back home,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Greg Creacy. “I saw a few in here that have hind legs already.”
They're tiny tadpoles, and they're the future of the Houston toad. The endangered species has struggled to survive development, a long drought and the devastating fire that swept through Bastrop two years ago.
“The wildfire that occurred on the heels of that drought obviously dramatically changed the habitat type,” Creacy said. “It's too early to tell yet what impact that's going to have on the Houston toad population.
Last winter, volunteers from Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas State University and the Houston Zoo harvested the few Houston toad eggs they could find here. Creacy says if they hadn't intervened, most of the eggs would not have survived to adulthood.
Melissa Jones with Texas State's Aquatic Resources Program has spent years studying the toad. She's eager to help these amphibians bounce back.
“By getting them to a certain level, we're hoping that they'll quickly develop, emerge and have a better state on their life as being a toad,” Jones said.
Texas Parks and Wildlife released 1500 tadpoles into the pond. It plans to release 6000 this season.
It will take a week for these tads to lose their tails, grow legs and hop on land.
“In order to monitor the success you have to get them to reproduce,” Jones said. “So figuring out if they're reproducing is the exciting part in the next couple of years.”
Then they'll use a specialized kind of genetic testing to see if these tadpoles mated and left a living legacy behind, Jones said.