Operation Spadefoot Rhode Island
Meet the state’s rarest toad – the Eastern spadefoot. In Rhode Island and much of New England, populations of this species are dwindling drastically due to the loss of breeding habitat. But today there is hope! RWPZoo director of conservation, Lou Perrotti, had the pleasure of creating the Zoo’s first head-start program for this species.
Why is the Spadefoot Toad Endangered?
The biggest reason is loss of its breeding habitat.
Spadefoot Toad: Why Does it Matter?
It’s a valuable part of our ecosystem, and it’s Rhode Island’s only endangered amphibian.
The Cooperative Conservation Project
In 2019, 800 Eastern spadefoot tadpoles were raised and released into select sites across Washington County in Rhode Island. This was a ground-breaking moment for the conservation of endangered species here in New England.
In April 2020, RWPZ joined conservation partners to build new vernal habitat pools as part of Operation Spadefoot RI, a habitat restoration project aimed to repopulate the endangered Eastern spadefoot toad. Volunteers and team members onsite dug, lined, and seeded two pools on land owned by the South Kingstown Land Trust.
In late August, 2021 after heavy rains during hurricane Henri, spadefoots bred at one of the pool sites. As the pool dried up, nearly 1000 tadpoles were rescued and then raised under the thoughtful eye of Lou Perrotti until they were fully morphed. Over 300 were released to the site they came from, and the rest were introduced to two other artificial breeding sites in efforts to expand the range of this state endangered species in Rhode Island.
Committed to preserving and protecting our environment.
We couldn’t have done this project without the help of over 80 volunteers who spent a combined 340 hours assisting with the construction of the newest wetland. Other partners include:
- RI DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT
- RI ZOOLOGICAL SOCIETY STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS
- UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND
- US FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE NORTHEAST REGION
- RHODE ISLAND NATURAL HISTORY SURVEY
- RICHMOND RURAL PRESERVATION LAND TRUST
- SOUTH KINGSTOWN LAND TRUST
- NATURE CONSERVANCY
- NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE
We’ll continue to expand breeding habitat for Spadefoot Toads across Rhode Island, and when the opportunity arises, we’ll headstart and seed these areas with baby toads.
Questions? Contact Louis Perrotti, Director of Conservation Programs at Lperrotti@rwpzoo.org or call (401) 785-3510 ext. 335.