Sticky Toes

This past month I had the opportunity to participate in an Arroyo Toad survey along Piru Creek, in California. The survey began around 6 pm so we had plenty of time to survey the toads in both daylight, and nighttime. As we moved from pool to pool, we saw a couple of tadpoles, but no toadlets, which was slightly disappointing. We were beginning to worry that upstream water diversion and pollution had decimated the toad population.

As the sun began to drop, our worries turned into excitement. With the growing darkness, the toadlets began to appear out of no were. One minute we were strolling along the creek bed, not seeing a single toad, and the next we had to shake our feet before setting them down to avoid stepping on the little critters.

Upon further inspection of the toads, we realized not all of them were the Arroyo Toads we were looking for, however we were still thrilled to see the creek bed come to life. As we were bent down looking at one of the toadlets, one of my co-interns came up from behind me, informing me that there were several toads just a foot away. As I turned to look, one jumped on my back, and began to make its way towards my head. Imagining the Parent Trap scene where the lizard crawls into the stepmother’s mouth, I closed my eyes, covered my ears, and tried to keep my mouth closed. The whole time I could feel the small toad climbing up my back. When it got to my shoulder, I could feel every one of its small, sticky toes as it crawled toward my neck. After what felt like five minutes, the toadlet finally decided it was done exploring, and jumped off, never to be seen again.

For the rest of the night, I could feel the toad’s sticky toes climbing on my shoulder, which might have been the weirdest feeling I have ever felt.

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