Sunday, June 5, 2011

American Toad

I’m encouraged by the number of large American Toads I’m seeing at Blue Jay Barrens this year. Things have been plenty moist, so this may be partially responsible for the frequent sightings. I like to believe that the population is increasing, if only slightly.

Toads display a wonderful camouflage. If they could keep from hopping as you walk by, most would probably go unnoticed.

The kidney bean shaped lumps behind the eyes are the paratoid glands. These glands are part of the toad’s defense system and create Bufotoxin, which coats the toads skin. Bufotoxin contains compounds that can produce many ill effects when ingested. Increased heart rate, hallucinations and vomiting are some of the conditions experienced by mammals that try to prey on a toad. This can really cause concern to dog owners who find their pet slobbering and staggering around the yard. It’s odd that many dogs continue to harass toads even after several experiences with the toxin.

I think reptiles and amphibians are the most photogenic of all animals. You would think they were intentionally posing for the camera. I don’t remember ever passing one in the field without taking a few photos. That spotting on the chest is one of the identifiers of the American Toad.

Toads were one of my favorite pets as a kid. I would find one soon after school was out and keep it for the summer. They would become amazingly tame. Their home was a one gallon terrarium in my bedroom. Almost every day, I would take the toad outside and help it search for food. It would climb over my hands as I dug around looking for suitable food items. I knew I couldn’t keep it through the winter, so towards the end of August I would release it where I had found it. I think those toads took on a role traditionally reserved for dogs.

There’s something special about this toad’s eye. As I gaze into its dark pupil I get a sense of compassion and strength and sensitivity. There’s an undeniable look of ancient wisdom and keen intelligence. Wait a minute. That’s my reflection I’m seeing.

I enjoyed my visit with the toad. It was engaged in the type of activity that I’m encouraging at Blue Jay Barrens. It was being a wild creature, as much uninfluenced by human activity as is possible in this part of Southern Ohio. It’s not going to be held captive by some nature loving kid or be flattened by a car or chopped up by a lawn mower. It will lead a normal toad life in the woods. I hope my brief intrusion didn’t detract from that life.


  1. I have a toad that visits me each spring, I like to think it's the same one. He's on my blog and he looks just like yours! I love their eyes, they remind me of a ring my dad once had.

    Your toad has a heart shape on his back, inside a small dark spot shaped like Ohio(almost), right behind his left paratoid gland.

  2. Thanks for the close eyes aren't as good as your lens so I've never seen one that well. a very handsome toad I must say...and he seems to be returning the contemplation.

  3. Hi, Wanda. You're right. This toad may be the ambassador for the heart of Ohio.

    I know what you mean, Michael. I've been known to take a picture of something and then enlarge it on the camera's screen to see just what it was I was looking at. The digital camera is probably the best all around field tool I've ever used.

  4. Oh, look at him, standing up so proudly!