Tiny endangered toad halts play at Open Championship

CNN  — 

For the second consecutive round, play was disrupted at the Open Championship, but – this time – not by protestors. On Saturday, trespassing tasks were taken up by a tiny toad.

The hopping arrival of one of Britain’s rarest amphibians at Royal Liverpool’s 13th green led to a delay in proceedings during the third round of the major, as only one trained member of the club’s staff can handle the natterjack toad.

From snakes to squirrels, elite golf is no stranger to creature cameos, with rules written by tournament’s organizers The R&A in place to allow players to move animals that are “touching or near their ball without penalty … in any way.”

But the Open’s special guest occupies a special status.

Measuring just six to eight centimeters, weighing between four and 19 grams, and only found at a select few coastal spots in England and Scotland, according to British charity The Wildlife Trusts, the natterjack toad is a European protected species.

The natterjack toad is one of Britain's rarest amphibian species.

It is an offense under the UK government’s Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) to “intentionally or recklessly disturb natterjack toads while they occupy a structure or place used for shelter or protection.”

As a result, players had to wait for Royal Liverpool’s Links Manager James Bledge – the only individual on site licensed to handle the amphibian – to arrive, who helped the toad off the green before play resumed.

England's Tyrrell Hatton plays the 13th hole.

It comes after Friday’s second round was disrupted by Just Stop Oil activists, who have targeted several high-profile sporting events in England in recent months, including The Ashes, Wimbledon, and the World Snooker Championship.

Read more: Just Stop Oil protestors disrupt Open Championship

American Brian Harman, chasing a first major title, carried a five shot lead into the weekend after carding a brilliant six-under 66 Friday. The 36-year-old teed off for his third round at 3:30 p.m. BST (10:30 a.m. ET).