What we have learned
With the origin of the fungus remaining uncertain, information sharing is more important than ever. Although our work does not directly focus on the origin or causes of this fungus, each time the frogs in WPC’s breeding program are infected, we learn a little bit more about it. Andrea Gielens, WPC’s lead biologist for our Fraser Valley Wetland Recovery Program, has experienced this fungal infection four times and has determined the most successful antifungal treatments for our population of Oregon spotted frogs.
In December 2022, when we first saw some of our frogs die practically overnight, we tore apart enclosures and saved the rest of the population by placing them in hibernating fridges until we could figure out what was going on. After swabbing both deceased and live animals, we quickly realized that we were dealing with chytrid.
Deciding whether we should wake the frogs, treat them and potentially lose our breeding season the following year, or if we should treat them in hibernation was a tough decision. We chose to treat them in hibernation, knowing this was uncharted territory, with only a handful of conservation organizations in the world having done this type of treatment for chytrid, and none of them with this species during hibernation.
The treatment included bathing the animals in an anti-fungal solution. After the first round of baths, chytrid was still present. This fungus wasn’t going down without a fight. After two rounds of treatment and over 100 baths, we finally received negative test results from the pathology lab.
Fast forward to the beginning of October 2023, we detected chytrid… again. Except this time we know what we are dealing with and what dosage works.
We will now follow a testing schedule, where we will be investigating the timeline for infection, if any, of our frogs to determine the best solution for husbandry and care of the colony. Right now our frogs are just finishing up their round of treatment. This will be followed by two rounds of testing. If they test negative both rounds then they are set to go back into their sterilized hibernation enclosures and if not, we will treat and test again!
Update: Round 1 of chytrid testing for the frogs came back negative! Now we wait a week and a half till second testing, fingers crossed.