Fowler’s Toad Recovery Strategy Executive Summary
This document provides a summary of the recovery strategy for the Fowler’s toad, which advises the ministry on ways to ensure healthy numbers of the species return to Ontario.
Prepared by Dr. David M. Green, Anne R. Yagi and Stewart E. Hamill
Although widespread throughout the eastern United States, Fowler’s Toad (Anaxyrus fowleri) has been found in Canada only on the shores of Lake Erie in Ontario, formerly occurring along most of the northern shore. Populations are now known from only three peninsulas: Rondeau, Long Point, and Niagara. In these areas the Fowler’s Toad is sympatric with the American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus). Fowler’s Toad no longer occurs in any localities along the shoreline of western Lake Erie. The species is listed as endangered on the Species at Risk in Ontario (SARO) List under the Endangered Species Act, 2007, and was classified as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).
In Canada, Fowler’s Toad is found on sandy or rocky points, sand dunes, and beaches along Lake Erie, where it breeds in sandy-bottomed ponds or rocky pools in early successional habitats. Because of this, it is profoundly affected by, but adapted to, changes brought about by the lake. Both juveniles and adults are capable of dispersing up to ten kilometres and can re-colonize habitats after local extirpations. However, steep bluffs along much of the Lake Erie coastline can impede movements along the beach. Required habitats include dunes for hibernation, beaches for hiding, shorelines for feeding and hydrating, rocky or sandy shoreline pools for breeding and tadpole development, and corridors for movement.
Limiting factors include a high mortality rate, short life span, and low genetic variability.
Most threats to the species in Ontario are related to intensive human use of the Lake Erie shoreline. This includes industrial, commercial, housing, road development, and recreational activities. These developments interrupt the natural processes of erosion and deposition necessary to maintain habitat features for all of the Fowler’s Toad’s life stages. Intensive alterations to nearshore, beach, and dune areas for human recreation activities and aesthetics can cause direct mortality of all life stages and loss of habitat features. Pollution may have been responsible for eliminating Fowler’s Toad from parts of its historic range and could have continuing impacts. Spread of an invasive strain of the Common Reed (Phragmites australis) and of other invasive species can also eliminate habitat.
The recovery goal is to maintain the three extant populations of Fowler’s Toad in Ontario, in the Rondeau area, on the Long Point peninsula, and along the Niagara Peninsula, and to re-establish self-sustaining populations in other suitable areas, where feasible.
The following objectives, each having a set of approaches, have been established:
- Protect existing populations and habitats of Fowler’s Toad.
- Gather more data about Fowler’s Toad, about human impacts on populations and habitat, and about how to mitigate these impacts.
- Mitigate existing human impacts on Fowler’s Toad populations and habitat, reduce risks of predicted or impending impacts, and improve habitat.
- Determine the feasibility of reintroduction of Fowler’s Toad in suitable areas.
- Re-establish self-sustaining populations of Fowler’s Toad in suitable areas, where feasible.
- Extend current monitoring programs to re-established populations and all areas with suitable habitat.
Within the three areas of current Ontario occurrence, and within 0.5 km of the Lake Erie shoreline,
- all sand beaches,
- all sand dunes,
- all sandy-bottomed ponds and marshes, rocky shoals, and seasonal pools, and
- all shorelines associated with or linking these features, should be prescribed as habitat in a habitat regulation.
Because the species can disperse and re-populate areas where it has disappeared, all areas of historic Fowler’s Toad occurrence should be monitored for re-appearance. If at any time individuals of the species re-appear or are re-introduced, the four habitats (described above) in that area should be prescribed as habitat in the habitat regulation.