Stanley Ball (1885-1954) holding a spadefoot toad.
New Haven Register, April 21, 1933.
“Yale Naturalist Unduly Alarmed,”
Ansonia Sentinel, December 21, 1933.
“Yale Naturalist Unduly Alarmed” — This was the headline in the December 21, 1933 edition of the Ansonia Sentinel.
The naturalist in question was Peabody curator Stanley Ball. His alarm
was on behalf of a small native amphibian, the Eastern Spadefoot Toad.
Ball believed a population of the toads in Ansonia would be put at risk by a proposed drainage project. Moreover, he foresaw that rapid suburban development propelled by the broader availability of automobiles was putting habitats for wildlife species such as spadefoot toads at great risk. Published in 1936, Ball’s monograph on the spadefoot toads of Connecticut remains one of the most important studies of the species in its northern range.
Media coverage of Ball’s research and concern on behalf of spadefoot toads reflected then prevailing public atitudes about wildlife. Residents near his study sites, who described the noise from a spadefoot chorus as sounding like “a locomotive laboring up a long hill,” seemed ready to see them disappear.