The Wyoming toad (Anaxyrus baxteri) is found only in Albany County, Wyoming. The toad was first described in 1946 by George T. Baxter, a graduate student at the University of Wyoming. The population of toads declined dramatically in the 1970s, and by the 1980s, individuals were extremely rare. The Wyoming toad was listed on the Endangered Species Act on January 17, 1984. In December 1996,the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) approved a Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the Wyoming toad.
Captive husbandry and reproduction of the Wyoming toad is of paramount importance to the recovery of the species. With the wild population in extreme peril, it is the responsibility of the institutions housing the remaining captive population to explore all options in order to not only significantly increase the overall numbers of Wyoming toads, but also to attempt to understand the unique and challenging physiological and environmental demands of this species.
NMRM&A is dedicated to the care and successful propagation of the Wyoming Toad. Since 2006, the aquarium staff has demonstrated that they are dedicated to providing the highest level of care possible for this endangered species. Due to the sensitivity and extreme vulnerability of this population, strict husbandry guidelines must be followed at all times.
The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in cooperation with the Genoa National Fish Hatchery has been raising freshwater mussels for recovery projects since 2004. The mussels, which require the use of a fish to serve as a host for their parasitic larvae, are raised in floating culture cages placed in the spring and removed in the fall. At the hatchery, mussel larvae are placed on their appropriate host fish and then transported to the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium for placement in the cages floating in the Ice Harbor. Each cage is stocked with 20 – 30 host fish. The cages allow the mussels to develop and then drop off, concentrating them in that specific area for future recovery. The cage also acts to keep predators away from the growing juvenile mussels. The fish are released from the cages after about six weeks, plenty of time for all the mussels to drop off. The cages are harvested in October and the resulting sub-adult mussels are stocked in the Mississippi River and its tributaries ranging from the Quad Cities all the way up to the Twin Cities. The number of cages varies each year, but generally falls between 10 and 25 cages. Each cage has produced an average of nearly 250 sub-adult mussels per year over the last five years. Species that have been successfully cultured in the Ice Harbor are the Higgins’ eye pearlymussel, fatmucket, yellow sandshell, black sandshell and pistolgrip.
In 2015, the partnership expanded to include grow-out of yearling sub-adult mussels in suspended upwelling units known as a SUPSY. The SUSPY is an air driven upwelling system made by nesting two small plastic buckets together with screened bottoms to allow water flow. Gentle aeration from an air pump creates flow through the system bringing the mussels oxygen and food. The initial trial included eight buckets, six stocked with fatmucket and two stocked with Higgins’ eye. Over the course of the summer, mussel survival was good (fatmucket 95.7%, Higgins’ eye 80.6%) and growth was excellent over the course of the summer (fatmucket 481%, Higgins’ eye 210%). This new technique allows for larger mussels to be stocked and also expands the hatchery’s capacity for growing sub-adult mussels to a size sufficient for stocking.
Listed as Endangered, continuing declines in habitat quality and the number of mature individuals, and an extremely restricted population with a single threat-defined location. This newt is in high demand for the international pet trade and lesser demand for medicine and food. Staff at the NMRM&A bred this newt in 2011 and 2012.
The NMRM&A has bred this frog species almost a dozen times and has sent offspring to zoos and aquariums all over the U.S. and exported some into Europe to serve as display animals, ambassador species, and to raise awareness of this critically endangered species.