SOUTHWICK, Mass. (WWLP) – Eggs and recently hatched tadpoles were confirmed after an area was set up in Southwick six years ago to breed the state-threatened eastern spadefoot.

The eastern spadefoot, a toad-like amphibian, is listed as threatened in Massachusetts and endangered in both Connecticut and Rhode Island. MassWildlife confirmed the population successfully bred at the site of its experimental population introduction at the Southwick Wildlife Management Area (WMA) for the first time in July 2021.

A new population of eastern spadefoot began with financial support from the Massachusetts Outdoor Heritage Foundation and its partnership with Sanofi Genzyme, MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP).

Southwick was chosen by the strict habitat requirements of the eastern spadefoot. They live most of its life underground, breed and deposit eggs in vernal pools of water. MassWildlife partnered with the Southwick Department of Public Works and students at Westfield State University and Bristol County Agricultural High School (BCAHS) to build three pools. Eggs and tadpoles from a donor population were introduced directly to pools in 2017 and 2018. Sexual maturity could take 2 years in southeastern states however in the cooler climate of New England, there is a possibility to delay the maturity by a year or more.

NHESP Conservation Scientist Jacob Kubel went to the Southwick Wildllife Management Area and found spadefoot tadpoles in one pool, and at least 30 breeding adults in another. Eggs and recently hatched tadpoles were confirmed at the latter pool two days later.

“It was a big night for the project,” said Kubel, “and these early results give us hope that it will be feasible to regain some lost ground in New England through active management.”

The number of breeding adults observed earlier this month is a very encouraging sign that the eastern spadefoot population has a good chance of being self-sustaining.