Source of illegal clawed frogs found, officials say
Game wardens with the Nevada Department of Wildlife have tracked down what they say is a source of prohibited African clawed frogs found throughout Nevada over the past few weeks, seizing 68 more frogs from homes across the state.
The company accused of sending the frogs, Florida-based Growafrog.com, paid a $3,600 fine Tuesday and agreed not to ship any more illegal frogs to Nevada, according to a statement Wednesday from NDOW. Cooperating with the state’s investigation, the company provided customer records to NDOW, allowing game wardens to contact people who unknowingly purchased the frogs over the Internet, the agency said.
Growafrog.com sells tadpole kits intended for educational purposes, according to its Web site.
The president of the company, Paul Rudnick, said he was aware that the frogs are illegal in Nevada, but a mistake was made at their facility, according to the statement.
The frogs are illegal in many Western states but are legal in some states, including Florida, where the company is based, according to Cameron Waithman, the game warden captain leading the investigation.
Game wardens started the investigation last month with the seizure of 119 African clawed frogs from three Reno homes. The publicity surrounding the case prompted other people around Nevada to call NDOW to turn in illegal frogs. These calls allowed game wardens to track the source back to Growafrog.com and ultimately the seizure of 187 illegal frogs, NDOW stated.
Game wardens received calls and seized frogs in at least seven counties in Nevada, according to Waithman.
“I have been amazed at the level of cooperation we have gotten from citizens across the state,” Waithman said in the statement. “People seemed to really understand the danger these frogs pose to our ecosystem and were very cooperative in turning them over to game wardens.”
Waithman said the seized frogs have been “humanely euthanized.”
NDOW officials said it is illegal to possess African clawed frogs in Nevada, as they pose a serious danger to native frogs and ecosystems if they escape from captivity.
Authorities don’t know whether any of the illegal frogs have escaped into the wild.
“We’re hoping that they haven’t,” Waithman said.
Waithman described the frogs as “voracious” and said they’ll deplete the food supplies of native frogs and other wildlife. The African clawed frogs also can carry a fungus that they are immune to but to which other frogs are susceptible.
The frogs have established feral populations in several locations in California, including a pond in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, Waithman said.
“We just don’t know in Nevada yet,” he said.
There still may be other sources for these frogs or frogs that NDOW is unaware of. NDOW is asking anyone who has any information or frogs to contact NDOW through the Operation Game Thief Hotline at (800) 992-3030.
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