Taking a cute little frog or other wildlife critter home after a trip to the outdoors can cause significant harm to wildlife populations. One recent example involves the Division of Wildlife Resources' on-going attempts to find, monitor and restore boreal toad populations.
During the past eight years, the species has rarely been observed within the central region of the state. Survey efforts have intensified during the past two years and biologists were ecstatic when they recently found three small groups of toads near a popular reservoir in the region.
After receiving a phone call recently from a member of the public about what food is recommended for the toads that had been found, DWR biologists were disturbed to discover that this person was in possession of 10 of these toads.
Boreal toads are on Utah's state sensitive species list. The biologists found that the toads were taken from the location where the new population had just been discovered.
Although boreal toads have also been found in the northern and southern regions of Utah, this illegal collection can have significant detrimental effects on population size and persistence at this central region location.
Only small numbers of toads have been observed to date and it's possible that the collection of 10 toads could significantly deplete the population.
The toads had been collected and passed out in a neighborhood as pets. DWR biologists are now faced with the dilemma of what to do with the toads. Once an animal is taken from the wild, they are susceptible to spreading disease acquired through human contact. If the toads are returned to the wild, there is a risk of introducing disease to the remaining toads at this location. The toads must now be raised in captivity and euthanized.
"Although many people have historically taken frogs and other creatures home from outdoor outings, they must realize that there are many problems associated with this practice," explained Krissy Wilson, a DWR biologist.
"First of all, amphibian populations have drastically declined in number throughout the world and biologists are still trying to figure out how to stop this decline," Wilson said. "Most animals which are taken from the wild die shortly after being illegally collected. Most species of wildlife are protected and require approval and a certificate of registration from the appropriate government agency."
"Finally, many people bring home an animal after an outdoor outing and soon realize that they cannot care for it, so they release it to a new location. This eventually creates many problems involving disease, population genetic structure, the food chain and several other problems which impact wildlife, habitat and often us in some negative way."
No matter the species, humans should not capture a wild animal and transport it to an unfamiliar environment. The wildlife is always best left alone.