Friday, July 30, 2010

Meet the Gulf Coast Toad

If you live in Houston (or anywhere along the Texas coast) you've probably seen, as well as heard, this guy:

When I was a kid, a hard summer rain followed by the nearby croaking of these toads meant that dozens of them would be found mating and laying their eggs in the puddles of standing water along the neighborhood streets the following morning. My brother and myself, along with other neighborhood kids, would wake up early to observe and play (or, in the toad's point of view, harass) them until they finally dispersed from the puddles late in the morning. Not long afterwards, the strings of eggs they laid would hatch and the puddles would become full of tadpoles.

But this is actually the first Gulf Coast Toad I've come across in awhile; I picked it up as it has hopping along the driveway in front of the house a few nights ago. Perhaps I don't notice them as much as I used to because as I've become older my interest in these animals has waned. More likely, however, is the fact that these toads are not as common in the neighborhood as they once were; major reconstruction of all neighborhood streets took place a few years back, and the depressions where rainwater would collect and these amphibians would congregate were eliminated, thereby reducing their neighborhood presence.

They're still around, though, as this guy attests, and I still hear them at night after a heavy rain (albeit these days further off in the distance). Given the rains we've been having over the past few weeks, they've had a lot to croak about.


John said...

I get plenty of them... dog owners should note that they are poisonous to dogs. Mine grabbed one in his mouth, which made him a bit sick for about a day (he did not eat the poor little toad, fortunately for all). Have the hose handy to flush out Fido's mouth if he gets one, as the toxin on the skin will stay in their mouth (and then get swallowed). Annoying for large dogs, potentially serious for small ones.

I do like listening to them croak.

Rachel said...

Great photo! I fished one of these out of my pond this morning and wondered what it was. I guess he mistook it for a puddle. He's dripping on the rocks around the pond at the moment, looking a bit dazed but I think he'll be fine. I'm in Austin.

Nancy G said...

I love these guys. I am surprised that a dog would try to eat one - mine have not shown any interest. But I too have heard they are potentially toxic to dogs.
Your observations about the local abundance of the Gulf Coast Toad are certainly true. THere used to be far more of them 5-10 year ago. In part it may be to urbanization and construction (e.g., in areas like Rice Military, which have been totally transformed and concretized, alas) but I think a more important reason is that Houston doesn't get nearly as much rain in the spring and summer as we used to. Also, our rains are not as heavy and the puddles containing the eggs and tadpoles dry up sooner - in many case too soon for them to have become froglets that then leave the water to live on land. Thank goodness for the rain this week - and hurray that it is bringing the toads out. I love to hear their trilling call (but it makes me sad to see so many of them smashed in the street the day after a rain - I brake for toads!). I hope we will get enough rain this time to create some water sources that last long enough to produce a new generation! Thanks for your post!
Nancy G