Biologists say don’t take the toads


    They may look inviting, especially to young campers, but biologists say reptiles and amphibians are better off left in their natural environments.

    “For a lot of people, it’s a common thing to catch frogs or toads and take them home, but in this day and age we have to be really careful,” said Scott Root, Conservation Outreach manager at the Division of Wildlife Resources. “Everyone’s guilty of at least wanting to do it.”

    Removing these animals from the wild is usually a death sentence for them, since people rarely know how to care for the animals, Root said.

    If they do not die in captivity, they may be released into a new location when people tire of caring for them. They may not be able to survive in a new habitat or may introduce disease into wild populations, he said.

    “To a biologist it’s a nightmare, but for the average person it’s just not something you think about,” Root said.

    The recent disturbance of a newly discovered population of boreal toads, listed on Utah’s State Sensitive Species list, brought the issue of unlawful wildlife collection to the attention of the DWR.

    Biologists at the DWR have carefully tracked the rare toad for eight years and received additional funding for the survey project during the last two years.

    By surveying and documenting the boreal toad population in Utah, they intended to prevent the toads from being listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

    This year, they discovered two new breeding populations in Utah’s central region.

    “We were pretty excited,” said Krissy Wilson, native aquatic biologist at the DWR.

    But only a week after their discovery, they received a phone call from a young boy who told them he had a “frog” and wanted to know what to feed it.

    A neighbor who had been camping had collected 10 of the boreal toads and distributed them in the neighborhood as pets. Other children had also been collecting the juvenile toads at the same time.

    Although boreal toads have been found in northern and southern Utah, only small populations of toads have been observed in central Utah and the collection of 10 toads could significantly deplete the population, Root said.

    “Now we have 10 boreal toads in captivity that cannot be released into the wild,” Wilson said. She plans to find homes for them in visitors’ centers, universities and biology classrooms.

    It is illegal to remove most reptiles and amphibians from the wild, Wilson said. Even animals that can be collected, such as garter snakes, have limitations.

    Reptile and amphibian populations are on the decline worldwide, and biologists are struggling to find ways to stop this decline.

    “One easy way is not to collect them,” Wilson said. “Kids are curious, which is great, but parents need to teach their kids not to take toads home in a bucket. Don’t disturb their habitat. Observe it, but don’t touch it.”

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