September 12, 2008 - 9:00 pm
RENO — Authorities who seized scores of illegal African clawed frogs from Nevada residents say they have traced the creatures to a company that sells tadpoles over the Internet. The animals are banned because of their potential for ecological damage.
It turns out the tadpoles from Florida-based Grow-a-Frog, which markets them as an educational tool, are illegal in Nevada and at least 10 other states, authorities said.
Agents seized 119 of the frogs from three Reno homes last month and publicized the raids to get the word out that the animals are illegal. Inundated with calls, they recovered another 68 this week in seven Nevada counties.
Florida-based Grow-a-Frog called the shipments to Nevada a mistake and agreed to pay a $3,600 fine and stop sending the unwelcome guests, said Capt. Cameron Waithman, a Nevada Department of Wildlife warden.
Banned as an illegal invasive species, the creatures live mostly in the water and grow as large as bullfrogs. They can destroy ecosystems if they escape by voraciously eating native fish, Waithman said.
Nevadans who knowingly possess Africa clawed frogs are subject to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Company officials cooperated in the investigation, officials said.
Grow-a-Frog officials did not respond to e-mails seeking comment.