Bastrop recovery slowed to protect endangered Houston Toad
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Restoring portions of fire-ravaged Bastrop County also means protecting a rare Texas gem in the process—the Houston Toad.
Experts estimate during the last five decades, the rare amphibians' numbers have dropped into the hundreds or low thousands.
Most of the toads can be found in the 124,000 acres of Lost Pines. Two-fifths of the area was destroyed by the Labor Day wildfires almost one year ago.
Since recovery in Bastrop began, "toad monitors" have saved and relocated dozens of the endangered amphibian.
"Because this is a federal action we are required to comply with the endangered species act,” FEMA Environmental Specialist Dorothy Weir said.
The process has slowed down debris removal quite a bit. A FEMA official has to make sure every pile of debris isn’t holding a toad before it can be cleared.
"What we're doing is trying to save any living creature that we find under the debris that can't survive this weather in the summer,” James Dixon, a professor Emeritus of Amphibians, said.
Although some fear this rare species is close to disappearing, others say the toad is tough enough to survive last year's big burn.
"The Houston Toad has been around several thousand years, maybe even a million, and it's burned before and it will burn again, so they made it through the fire, so they're making it this time as well," Dixon said.
The Houston Toad was placed on the endangered species list in 1973. As of last Friday, 26 toads have been saved and moved to sanctuary ponds.
The best time to try to see, or hear them, is during their mating season in February and March.