Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What Not To Lick – The Southern Toad

Originally published on Audubon Guides on October 8th, 2012
I had a dream about the game show Family Feud the other night. The one hosted by Richard Dawson, the guy that kissed all of the ladies.

He said “One hundred people surveyed, top five answers on the board. Here’s the question: name me something you lick.”

I couldn’t think. I panicked. Frozen flag poles. Lobsters. Newborns (no that’s what animals do). Toads!

“Show me Toads!”


Yeah that’s a bad idea. Toads in general have a powerful defense in the form of bufotoxin, a white venomous substance that is secreted through the “warts” on their skin. Licking the neurotoxin of a toad would be harmful and potentially fatal. In fact it’s illegal to produce drugs from toad venom in the U.S.  
Southern Toad © Pete Corradino
I had a dog when I was young that would routinely pick toads up in its mouth, quickly drop them and then froth at the mouth to eliminate the toxin. He often looked rabid. Did he learn? No and he repeated this behavior despite the negative reinforcement of the painful experience. Both the dog and toads survived nonetheless.

The Southern Toad (Anaxyrus terrestris) has bumpy skin with two large kidney-shaped parotoid glands behind the eyes. It is best not to handle toads and these bumps especially should be avoided. Southern Toads can reach lengths of over 3.5 inches, are slow hoppers and are found near water in sandy soiled areas. They’re also the ones hanging around your doorstep at night feeding on bugs. Keep the dog inside. During the day they dig a burrow to protect their moist skin from the long sunny days in the Southeastern United States.

In the spring, females will find a slow-flowing body of water and lay duel strands of thousands of gelatinous eggs that will hatch within 2-3 days. Once the tadpoles develop feet, thousands of them will disperse together on rainy nights, but their neurotoxin offers no defense for what awaits them on the roads.
You may have better ideas of what’s acceptable to lick. Just remember toads are not one of them. 

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