2023 Year in Review: Rachel Wolffe, Licensed Veterinary Technician 

It’s time to look back on 2023! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2023 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

Those who have read my previous year-end memories should not be surprised to find that I am, once again, writing about an amphibian. This year, I am looking back on a very rare, cute, and special little frog called an Eastern Spadefoot.

Spadefoots are very secretive and rarely seen, thanks to their mostly fossorial lifestyle. Their name comes from the spade-like projections on their hind feet that help them dig. They spend most of their time underground in burrows, only surfacing a handful of nights a year when conditions are right. Due to this, they prefer specific habitats with friable, sandy to loamy soil. So, you can imagine my excitement and surprise when Dr. Marit asked me to look at our newest “toad” intake #23-1561, and he was a spadefoot! This was the first time I had seen one of these funny little creatures.

This patient was disturbed by a private citizen digging in their garden here in Waynesboro this past June. The good Samaritan brought the little frog here to the Wildlife Center. The spadefoot presented with an open wound on his right elbow and a severe hematoma (bruising) on his ventrum (underside). Two days later, I assisted Dr. Olivia with sedating him so she could close his wound. The wound was in a difficult, high-motion spot, and we had to add a few more sutures when the original incision opened. Ideally, he would have eco-earth soil in his enclosure so he could dig and bury himself, however, we had to keep him on wet, unbleached paper towels for a while to keep the wound clean.

Thankfully, after a few weeks in care, his wound healed and the bruising had resolved. Dr. Marit and I were excited to release him together at a local park close to where he was found. He happily hopped off into the underbrush along the river. Spadefoots are considered a species of greatest conservation need (tier 4a) in Virginia, so this was not only a win for this adorable little frog and our team at the Wildlife Center, but also for amphibian conservation!

– Rachel Wolffe, Licensed Veterinary Technician 

Check out all of our year-in-review posts!