Researchers studying the Wyoming toad as part of an effort to save it from extinction are baffled by the appearance of another type of amphibian - the Plains spadefoot toad - at an unusually high elevation.

"I've studied amphibians and other animals all over the Laramie Basin and have never before seen a spadefoot around here, not one," said George Baxter, a University of Wyoming zoology-physiology professor emeritus.The Wyoming toad, Bufo hemiophrys baxteri, was believed extinct since 1980, but a colony was discovered this spring southwest of here. During studies for a recovery program, researchers spotted the spadefoot, or Scaphiopus bombifrons, which is common in lower areas east of the Laramie Mountains.

The spadefoot is difficult to study because it can burrow as much as 15 feet into moist soil and stay there up to six years, said William Gern, head of the university's zoology-physiology department.