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BLACK TOAD } Bufo exsul

RANGE: Deep Springs Valley, Inyo County, and Saline Valley in Death Valley National Park, California

STATUS: The World Conservation Union lists the black toad as Vulnerable. Threatened in California.

THREATS: Alteration of water courses for irrigation, removal of toads by collectors, introduced predators and livestock grazing

This tar-colored amphibian makes do with very little: The black toad’s entire natural range is only 37 acres, one of the smallest ranges for any North American amphibian. In fact, only four spring systems in Deep Springs Valley and Death Valley National Park in southeastern California make up the world of the black toad. In winter, black toads hibernate underground. In spring, they emerge to a boggy, watery world that is raucous and bustling. An estimated 24,000 toads populate these marvelous desert-spring systems. They walk rather than hop, and their skin looks like a Jackson Pollock painting. The springs in the black toad’s prime habitat are suffering due to grazing and alteration of water courses for irrigation purposes.

Photo © Hanna Strauss