This species is endemic to the state of California, USA. It is found only in the high sierra from the Blue Lakes region north of Ebbets Pass (Alpine County) south to Spanish Mountain area (Fresno County), and is found at elevations of 1,460-3,630m asl.
Habitat and Ecology
It inhabits wet mountain meadows and borders of forests, and obtains shelter in rodent burrows as well as in dense vegetation. This species breeds in shallow edges of snowmelt pools and ponds or along edges of lakes and slow-moving streams. Some breeding sites dry up before larvae metamorphose. Females may breed every other year or once every three years. It persists in meadow habitats degraded by cattle as well as in lakes stocked with non-native trout.
The total adult population size is unknown but is likely to be at least a few thousand. Declines, some in seemingly pristine environments, occurred in the eastern Sierra Nevada between the early 1970s and early 1990s (Kagarise Sherman and Morton 1993). Although still distributed over most of its original range, and many populations have active breeding and recruitment (Shaffer et al. 2000), the species has declined or disappeared from more than 50% of the sites from which it has been recorded (Jennings and Hayes 1994; Drost and Fellers 1996). USFWS (2000) reviewed additional evidence of declines in distribution and abundance.
Leading hypotheses for the declines are disease (chytridiomycosis), airborne contaminants, and livestock grazing. An examination of preserved specimens from a 1970 die-off found multiple pathogens, but no single pathogen was present in more than 25% of the specimens, suggesting that the animals suffered from suppressed immune systems (Green and Kagarise Sherman 2001). Davidson, Shaffer and Jennings (2002) found a weak pattern between declines at sites and amount of agricultural land upwind (suggesting that windborne agrochemicals may have contributed to declines). Livestock grazing may have detrimental impacts on Yosemite Toads through trampling, alteration of meadow habitat, and possible lowered water quality (D. Martin pers. comm.). Other factors that may have contributed to declines are the 1980s California drought, and predation by introduced trout. Ultraviolet radiation is not suspected to be a major contributor to declines based on fieldwork by Sadinski (pers. comm.).
Most of the habitat of this species is confined within protected areas including: Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, wilderness areas of Eldorado, Inyo, Stanislaus, and Sierra National Forest, with the highest number of populations recorded in Sierra National Forest followed by Stanislaus National Forest. Off-highway vehicle use, pack stock and cattle grazing still occur in National Forests, as well as protected wilderness areas; only pack stock use continues in Yosemite National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. Because declines have occurred in pristine areas in parks, no occurrences can be regarded as adequately protected. This species has been federally petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act in March 2000 by the Pacific Rivers Council and Centre for Biological Diversity. In December 2002 the US Fish and Wildlife Service published a decision in the Federal Register that placed the toad on the "warranted-but-precluded" list due to higher priority listings. Further taxonomic work is required to determine the status of this species relative to B. exsul.
Molecular data suggest that Anaxyrus exsul is possibly conspecific with this species.
Geoffrey Hammerson, Rob Grasso, Carlos Davidson 2004. Anaxyrus canorus. In: IUCN 2014