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The Frogs of Frogtown Were Probably Toads

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Experts say the amphibious critters that gave Elysian Valley its nickname may have been Western Toads

Long the site of efforts to revitalize the beleaguered LA River, Elysian Valley's familiar nickname—Frogtown—conjures up images of a glorious past, when the free-flowing waterway was home to thousands of frogs that lived among the local residents. Of course, as KCET now reveals, those frogs might actually have been toads. That's what Lila Higgins, of the LA County Natural History Museum, says anyway. Her best guess is that the (apparently very tiny) amphibians were Western Toads. "You could even call them toadlets," she says, adding that some may have been even smaller than the eraser on a pencil.

This is not to say that the river is devoid of frogs; at least two varieties have been found there. But former Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist and Frogtown native Raul Rodriguez agrees that the creatures seen hopping around the neighborhood until the 1970s were probably toads. Ironically, he tells KCET that their most obvious un-frog-like behavior was the frolicking through the neighborhood that earned Elysian Valley its nickname in the first place.

As Rodriguez suggests, it seems unlikely that Frogtown residents will start using a more taxonomically accurate moniker to describe the area. After all, its been decades since the famous not-frogs disappeared from Elysian Valley. Still, Frogtown has changed names before. Around the turn of the 20th century, it was known as Gopher Flats. It's not clear, though, which of the five species of gopher found in LA County this name might have been referring to.