Western toads abundant in northern Nevada – this year anyway | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Western toads abundant in northern Nevada – this year anyway

RENO (AP) – Northern Nevada, with its hot, dry summers and desert terrain, is hardly thought of as a paradise for toads.

But that’s what it’s become, this year anyway, thanks to two wet winters and a hefty rainstorm that made puddle jumping a breeze for the springy legged amphibians.

Sharon Klein of Lemmon Valley first noticed what she thought were frogs hopping around her yard in mid July.

Soon after a heavy rainstorm on July 21, they were everywhere.

“There were hundreds of them hopping around in the grass. They were out in the street. My kids must have had 20 of them in each hand,” Klein told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Biologists say they’re not frogs, but Western toads. And this year they’re particularly abundant.

“We’ve gotten a lot more phone calls than we ever have before,” said Anita Shaul, an amphibian specialist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife. The toads were thick in parts of Washoe Valley, Lemmon Valley and Stead.

It’s hard to say exactly why Western toads are so numerous this year, but Shaul believes it has to do with all the water left over from the region’s second wet winter in a row.

More water means more habitat for toads to lay eggs. Plentiful water allows more hatched tadpoles to survive to become tiny “toadlets” with legs to hop around on. And larger number of toadlets means more will ultimately grow into adult toads to begin the cycle again.

Shaul speculates that the heavy thunderstorm that drenched the area July 21 saturated the landscape to an extent that toads, young and old, were encouraged to roam farther away from ponds and into neighborhoods.

“Amphibian populations are really boom and bust,” Shaul said. “With the right conditions, it becomes a boom year.”

This is a boom year.

“It’s crazy,” said 18-year-old Robert Heckman of Lemmon Valley. “There are so many that you’re stepping on them. You see a wave of them crossing the street.”

Brandylynn Marshall’s 1-year-old daughter Lori walked up one day pointing at her diaper. Mom figured she needed changing.

“I took them off, and she had five or six (toads) stuffed in there,” Marshall said. “I had to chase them all over the house.”

At the Klein home on Fremont Way, the grass grows long. Klein is afraid to mow the lawn lest she carry out bloody amphibian carnage. And she’s noticed something else as well. Before the toad invasion, she was having a problem with lots of gnats swarming the property.

“Now they’re all gone,” Klein said.

That’s a bonus, Shaul said. Toads eat lots of bugs, including ants and mosquitoes.

But the latest toad influx appears to be winding down.

Many of the tiniest toads that left the safety of their ponds came to obstacles like roadside curbs too high to jump over. They became trapped, dehydrated and died.

Others were run over by cars. Still others spread out to new territory, becoming less concentrated in areas where they were previously thickest.

“If there’s another rain, we might see them again, too,” Shaul said.

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