On Tuesday, 6,500 tadpoles were carefully released into a pond at Bastrop State Park, and, with any luck, 10 of them will survive to become full-grown Houston toads. That would be progress for an endangered species believed to be on the verge of extinction after wildfires swept through Bastrop County in September 2011.
By early next week, most of the tadpoles will use their tiny rear legs, incoming front legs and tails full of fat reserves to hop onto land and give the species a boost.
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Species: Bufo houstonensis, listed as endangered in 1970.
Size: Adults are 2 to 3.5 inches.
How can you tell: Varies from brown and speckled to almost black to a slightly reddish, yellowish and grayish hue. Legs have dark bands.
Out of cover: Kind of secretive and seldom seen except on warm, humid evenings during breeding season.
Wouldn’t you know: Has a stout body, short legs and rough, warty skin.
Hangs out: Loves loose, deep sands near slow-flowing water for breeding. The largest population is in Bastrop County.
The bad guys: When babies hit the beach, their predators are fire ants, birds, raccoons, skunks, snakes and even bullfrogs.
On the menu: As young-uns in the water, they eat small insects, mosquitoes and small spiders. Once on land, the dinner plate includes beetles, grasshoppers and larger insects.
Watch out: They are often run over by cars as they move around.
Love is in the air: They emerge from hibernation during warm, humid evenings. Males start chorusing for females December through June but breeding is prime during Cupid’s time in February and March.