A very early spring

It's an early spring breeding season for amphibians and reptiles. Here is a lovely American toad trying to find it's way to a nearby wetland where it can partake in some social networking.

I think the amphibians are just as confused as we are about the early spring we’re having. Two nights ago I spent a fair amount of time patting the butts of American toads trying to get them to move out of the way of oncoming traffic. It had been really warm outside that day and there was an impending rainstorm coming (which to them is an invitation to party) so they were out in full force that night. Unfortunately, as the sun went down it had gotten a little chilly so these little fellas were pretty slow going. Some didn’t make it, sadly. It’s hard to compete with the speed and size of a car, especially if you’re a cold toad.

This recent experience made me miss doing field biology work. I always enjoyed performing reptile and amphibian road surveys. Nothing beats that feeling of helping these wonderful creatures safely get to their destination so they can fulfill their biological and social needs. I strongly urge you to stop and help a fellow creature in need cross the road. Make sure to do it safely (my friends are laughing at this right now because the last time I stopped to help a snapping turtle cross the road I ended up putting my car in a ditch…don’t do that!). You will often get a little attitude from the creature–and perhaps peed on–but it’s all in good fun.

Before you go out and save the world. You should be aware that there is good form and bad form. Please practice good form.

Bad form:

No, people do not get warts from handling toads but their skin glands do secret an irritating substance (makes them less appealing for dinner) so just make sure to wash your hands after handling them. That goes for contact with any animal though.
  • Never, ever take an animal home with you–to keep as a pet–thinking that you are doing it a favor. You just uprooted that animal’s entire life. This thinking is disrespectful and shows a complete lack of empathy.
  • Don’t release the animal in a habitat where you think it will be “happier.” This thinking has contributed to the invasive species epidemic we are experiencing today. That animal could have a disease, parasite, or infection that you could be introducing to another ecosystem and thus spreading it. The animal could also out-compete the local inhabitants for natural resources such as food. Not to mention that the animal could eat up the entire ecosystem. I’ve seen that happen with introduced bullfrogs. They literally ate every amphibian, every rodent, every bug, every reptile, and every small fish that they could fit into their mouths until there was nothing left.
  • Don’t harass or over-handle the animal. Amphibians especially have very sensitive skin. Many don’t have lungs and breathe through their skin so just imagine someone putting their stinky, oily, heavily lotioned hands all over where you breathe. Not good.

Good form:

  • Be swift, gentle and safe.
  • Put the animal on the side of the road where it was heading. Don’t send them back to the start. That’s just down-right mean. They aren’t just aimlessly wandering. They have an exact location they are trying to get to. In this case, just accept the fact that the animal knows more than you do.
  • Put the animal a few feet away from the road so no one will swerve to purposely hit it. I absolutely loathe people that do this!
  • If the animal has been injured, call a local wildlife rehabber. Don’t try to nurse it back to health yourself.
  • Wish them a safe journey! It’s okay, no one’s around to watch you talk to the little guy (or gal).
How do you tell a lady toad from a dude toad? Easy. Females are usually bigger. Breeding males also have dark pads on their thumbs and inner fingers. These pads help them hold on to the larger ladies when they are breeding in the water, thus the term nuptial pads. Plus, males do a lot of calling for mates so their throat pouches are darker by comparison.
Toads pretty much inhabit every ecosystem, from mountains to backyards. Besides long hops on the beach, they enjoy shallow pools in which to breed, burrowing, and moist soil. Their death row meal would be a delicious assortment of insects and invertebrates (including those tasty hermaphroditic superfoods we call worms). Yum! I'm fairly certain they stole my last meal idea.

1 thought on “A very early spring”

  1. I love reading your posts! I have to say, I read every last word, don’t skip a one!
    I can’t wait for you to publish some books. I will be first in line for your signature!! ‘I’m your number one fan…muah ha ha ha…’

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