Warty and spotted, Amargosa toads hop through David Spicer’s ranch in Beatty, Nevada as flashlight waving volunteers collect the amphibians, put them in buckets, and slip electronic tags underneath their skin. The effort is meant to count and help track these desert-dwelling animals that bathe in local hot springs, the nearby river, and even a chemical-free pool. Organized by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, the nighttime expeditions, which happen twice a year, show that these toads that were once headed towards extinction are making a comeback thanks to a group of ranchers distrustful of the government, off-road racers, and even a brothel-owning couple.
"What you're seeing tonight are the results of active land management, active habitat management," said Spicer in an interview for National Public Radio. Wary of the restrictions that an endangered species act listing would entail, he helped found a group called Saving Toads thru Off-Road Racing, Mining and Ranching in Oasis Valley, or STORM-OV, that could protect the five-inch amphibians.
“The group has persuaded land owners to make their properties toad-friendly,” the reporter said in the story. “They've also worked to get rid of non-native animals like bullfrogs and crawdads, which eat toad eggs and tadpoles, and invasive plants like tamarisk and cattail that clog the springs where toads live.”
A couple that owns a brothel located in town has made their property inviting to toads. They have a clothing-optional pool where the toads like to congregate.
"We don't bother them or anything like that," said Tom Arillaga, who helps care for the buildings. "The pool is not chemically treated, so they go in the pool and their eggs wash down the creek here, and then they hatch along the creek,” he explained in the piece.
The town is hoping to attract visitors who are interested in seeing the tiny toads, whose numbers have grown from just a few dozen to thousands in just about a decade. The Beatty Habitat Committee is leading an effort to put in a nature trail next to the Amargosa River so as to lure a different type of traveler: toad tourists.