Friday, October 21, 2011


California, or Western Toad
Not many people here today have even seen this toad, but before 1964 there was a great abundance of these little guys. Often, after the first rain of the fall, the baby toads would migrate from the river to the inland areas to winter up. They would live in people’s yard or garden. If a board was left laying flat, a gopher or a mole would dig a tunnel under it, then the toad would take over the gopher tunnel. They could always be found in gardens and under woody debris. Every lumber pile had numerous toads under it.

In the fall there was sometimes such mass migrations that the toads getting run over on the rain wetted pavement would make the pavement slick and dangerous. In would smell like fish, and after the sun came back out it would smell like dead fish. The flies and the yellow-jacket wasps would invade the dead toad bodies.

The adult toads would mate in the river. The male grabs the female around her chest under her arms. When she lays her eggs in long strings the male fertilizes them as they come out. She lays up to 17,000 eggs. She sticks them to vegetation along the bank of a stream or a pond. They hatch into tadpoles, and feed in the pond or river until the fall when they form arms and legs. At the first heavy rains they would move inland.

Why is it that nobody wonders what happened to the once abundant toads? Can it be that they disappeared before the local environmental movement started? I wonder how many other species have disappeared without notice, because it was before our time. If I had not seen the once abundance of the toads I would have nothing to go on to know that they were even here.

Just a thought. Does anyone else remember the toads?


Anonymous said...

I remember. I stuffed my pockets full of baby toads and my mom didn't find them until she took the laundry off the line. I might add, we had a ringer washer at the time.
Some of us kids used to sail the flattened, dried toads like a Frisbee.


Ernie Branscomb said...

I liked the bag of water snakes that you took to Charlie Cary at the Tackle Shop better.

I don't see many water snakes anymore either, but I do see one every now and then. Nothing like the swarm that lived under the summer bridge at Bear Gulch

Anonymous said...

It seems like we had more of those critters when we could still use DDT.


Ross Sherburn said...

Charlie had a 218 Bee rifle. I can remember that,but not yesterday! LOL!

Ben said...

Water snakes are striped garter snakes?

Anonymous said...

Ben, Ernie probably forgot but that bag of snakes I had were ringneck snakes but they were all in the water at Bear Gulch Creek.


Robin Shelley said...

I remember "sail toads", too, Oregon. And I remember catching toads down by the lake in Laytonville. We were told we would get warts if they peed on us... & they peed on us every time!
What happened to the turtles? Used to see a lot of those in our backyard & even in the road.

spyrock said...

i was fixing the pump on dove's pond and i was gonna step but something moved, a big ole toad, trying to get hid in my pump fixins, so i just missed him or her. gonna wait and hear what that toad sounds like tonight.

Guy in Ohio said...

They came out to Ohio Ernie. We have thousands of them here ... we dumped a load of firewood up near the house last week, and when I went to stack it this weekend, there must have been twenty of them camped out under it.

Ekovox said...

Oh yes....I remember the toads. And how they would pee on you if you picked them up. That IS how you get warts, you know.

They used to live in my Mom's rock wall flower beds.