Saving Colorado's only alpine toad

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - An endangered toad's population has been declining for more than 20 years.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is hoping a new chemical can reverse that troubling trend.

Boreal toads are the only alpine toad in the state of Colorado. They live between 8,000 and 12,000 feet above sea level.

"It occupies a very important niche from a biodiversity standpoint and a wildlife standpoint," said Paul Foutz, a native aquatics species biologist.

Foutz says the number of toads started plummeting in the 1990s because of chytrid fungus, a disease that causes instant death in many amphibians.

Foutz and other biologists are making a last-ditch effort to save the species with an experimental treatment they've dubbed "purple rain."

It's a combination of bacteria found in the toad's habitat and probiotics.

"We're bringing tubs out to their environment, and we have that treatment in the tubs, the purple rain treatment, and the toads actually soak for 24 hours in that environment," Foutz said.

And wildlife experts have reason for optimism: a team of scientists went out last August to South Cottonwood Creek to catch toads and apply the treatment. Recent tests show they're reacting well to the medicine. If this continues, Foutz says they just might save the population.

"What we're trying to do is to have a positive impact on protecting the toads from the fungus. And if we can do that, hopefully we can turn around some of these declines we're seeing," Foutz said.

A research team from CU-Boulder helped with the project. They plan on going out again this summer to give more toads the medicine.