Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Posts Tagged ‘river’

August 4, 2011

Every Toad Matters Too

International Bird Rescue has been working on the oil spill in the Yellowstone River in Montana for a month now. To date we have received 59 animals:  an American Robin, a Cooper’s Hawk, a Yellow Warbler, a Canadian Goose, 6 Western Terrestrial Garter Snakes, a Bullfrog, a Leopard Frog, and 47 Woodhouse’s Toads.

So why all the toads?
Toads and frogs abound in and around the Yellowstone River. Frogs stay within the watery and moist areas along the river banks, but toads seem to be everywhere – in fields, on sand bars, on the roads, in our washing tent, in our boots – everywhere. There are thousands of baby toads covering the ground, so many that you have to constantly watch your step in order to avoid squishing them. Many came from eggs in ponds that were away from the riverbed and were more or less secure when the rushing waters rose. We thought that many toads along the riverbed had been washed away in the flood, but the more we visit islands in the river that were previously inaccessible to us, the more we recognize how much we underestimated the toads’ ability to adapt.

About two weeks ago, we observed adult and thumbnail-sized baby toads on some of the islands that had been completely underwater. The current had been too strong for toads to swim to these islands. We concluded that the toads had been underground or were able to burry into the logjams of trees, branches and other debris, until the water receded and the environment suited them.

The receding waters left small pools with surface oil and oily mud around heavily oiled logjams. As the land becomes drier, the logjams and the puddles are an attractive place for toads. Although crews are cleaning up oiled debris in these hot spots very quickly, some toads were oiled as they foraged. There remains a considerable amount of land to cover, and we continue to monitor these areas and collect any wildlife in need.

How do you wash a toad or frog?
The process of washing an amphibian is easier than that for washing a bird because you are cleaning skin not feathers. We use a very light solution of Dawn in tepid water. A toad is submerged up to its neck, and we use our fingertips to wash off the oil just as you would do if you were washing your hands. For oil around the face and eyes we use a Waterpik, cotton swabs and our fingertips to loosen the oil. The toad is then rinsed and allowed to swim in fresh water for a short time to rinse off any additional soap. It is released in a clean and suitable toad area. All of the oiled amphibians in this spill have been healthy and viable animals, and all have been released in the same day that they came to us.

Jay Holcomb
Director Emeritus
International Bird Rescue