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Witnesses document mass migration of toads in Tooele County

Jul 20, 2023, 11:11 PM | Updated: Jul 21, 2023, 9:30 am

TOOELE COUNTY, Utah —Hundreds of thousands of small toads were part of a mass migration across a country road in Stockton Wednesday, leaving witnesses and biologists stunned at the scale.

Mary Hulet said she was driving home from the airport after 7 p.m. and was at the bottom of an area known as the “S curves” on Silver Avenue when she saw cars stopped ahead and it looked as if the road itself was moving.

“At first I thought, ‘I’m just tired ’— like there’s no way,” Hulet said. “As I looked and I kind of focused on it, I realized these were frogs or toads that were crossing the road.”

There were tons, everywhere, across a stretch of road more than a mile long.

“We’re talking like thousands of toads crossing the road,” Hulet said. “I’m like, ‘is this like toad-mageddon? What in the world is going on here?’”

When Utah Division of Wildlife Resources central region aquatics manager Chris Crockett saw the video Hulet and others shot with their phones, he made lofty comparisons Thursday.

“The word, ‘biblical,’ came to mind,” Crockett chuckled during an interview with KSL TV.

He said the creatures were likely juvenile Great Basin spadefoot toads hatched around what in many years is a dry Rush Lake.

“These juvenile toads — often what we call metamorphs — decided it was a good time to leave their area and out-migrate into some of these surrounding hills,” Crockett said.

Crockett said the toads’ ample numbers — he estimated in the hundreds of thousands — were probably due to the banner water year.

“It’s just a great example of how dependent most of the species in Utah are on good water years,” Crockett said.

Witnesses said the migration didn’t go well for many of the toads, which were run over by cars.

“There were a lot of dragonflies there,” Jackson Mather said. “I thought those were dragonfly guts we were driving on.”

Some witnesses including Hulet tried to direct traffic to help spare whatever toads they could.

“We were like, ‘This is not OK — this is like mass casualties on our little road here,’” Hulet said. “That was a really hard thing to see.”

Regardless, Hulet and others said they wouldn’t soon forget a migration unlike anything they had ever witnessed before.

“I have never seen anything that looked like tens of thousands of frogs,” Hulet said.

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Witnesses document mass migration of toads in Tooele County